Council approves plan to restructure planning and development agencies

City Council voted on Thursday to approve Council President Darrell Clarke’s plan to create a Department of Planning and Development within the Mayor’s office, charged with coordinating various boards and commissions that regulate development in the city.

The proposal, which will need to be approved by voters on the November ballot, would add the Historical Commission to the city charter and create a Housing Advisory Board composed of representatives from local housing and redevelopment agencies. The Board would be charged with creating a long-term housing plan for the city.

The department—which would have a director appointed by the mayor and paid $150,000 a year—would be split into a Planning and Zoning Division, a Development Services Division, and a Housing and Community Development Division. The Office of Housing and Community Development, which was created by Mayor Frank Rizzo in the 1970s to administer Community Development Block Grants, would be dissolved and transferred to the new Department.

“By consolidating related planning and development functions within this new department, most of which are not currently connected or accountable to each other, under the leadership of a qualified and experienced development professional, this legislation promises a 21st century organizational structure that will greatly benefit our City,” Council President Clarke said in a statement released last week.

When he initially floated the idea last fall, Clarke had wanted the Department of Licenses and Inspections to be included in the new Department as well. The Nutter Administration and public-safety advocates balked at that idea, feeling that L&I should have a clear mandate for code enforcement rather than streamlining licensing and permitting for the benefit of development.

Clarke’s office organized a series of meetings with development advocates and neighborhood groups to discuss changes to the legislation. While some still had suggestions for how the legislation could be improved, key parties had reached substantial consensus on the proposal before a committee hearing last month.

Previous coverage of the proposal is linked below. Read the latest version of the legislation here.

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