Council adopts amendments to Registered Community Organization process

By a vote of 15-2 Thursday, City Council passed a bill introduced by 3rd-District Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell which changes portions of the new zoning code’s provision on Registered Community Organizations.

The bill—which went through many iterations as the Councilwoman and Planning Commission debated its language and potential impact—requires developers and RCOs to notify everyone within a block of proposed projects that need zoning approval or Civic Design Review. Councilmen Bill Green and Mark Squilla voted against the bill.

Blackwell introduced her bill as a response to criticism of the new code’s RCO provision from some civic organizations, and particularly Tiffany Green of Concerned Citizens for Point Breeze. Green and others felt the provision unfairly advantaged well-to-do organizations at the expense of smaller groups. Both the Zoning Code Commission and Planning Commission had heard the criticisms of the provision from Green and others at several points, and decided to go ahead with a system that laid out some basic requirements for RCOs and forced a single meeting between those groups and developers.

Councilwoman Blackwell said she introduced the changes to assure that all groups that wanted a say in what goes on in their neighborhoods could have one. The RCO provision was in fact intended to codify that very idea, but Blackwell felt that its requirements were too strict. Nothing in the code enacted in August would have prevented any member of any neighborhood from speaking at the Planning Commission, Civic Design Review Committee, or Zoning Board of Adjustment.

Blackwell’s bill also allows District Councilmembers to appoint representatives to the CDR Committee and require more than one meeting between neighborhood groups and developers. Opponents of the bill have said that it will make the zoning process more onerous for neighborhood groups as well as developers.

Tiffany Green’s group was granted RCO status a few weeks ago after initially being denied this summer.

Contact the reporter at jbrey@planphilly.com and follow him on Twitter @jaredbrey

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