Council takes care of leftover zoning business as fight looms over further amendments

Short three members, City Council unanimously passed two zoning bills Thursday morning left over from its spring session. The first enacts a citywide 50-foot buffer to new construction on all rivers and streams in Philadelphia. The second, identified by the Planning Commission as a code “clean-up bill,” corrects dozens of typographical errors and conflicting definitions.

The Planning Commission had initially tried to have the provisions contained in the two bills added to the code last spring, but Council felt it didn’t have adequate time to review the amendments, and decided to put off considering them until fall. The passage of the bills represents a fairly substantial victory for the Administration. Both were subject to a series of attempted amendments from members of Council over the past several months that the Commission felt didn’t jive with their intent: to put finishing touches on the zoning code Council adopted last December.

Meanwhile, three more bills—one from Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell and two from Councilman Brian O’Neill—will be subject to a hearing at Council’s Committee on Rules Tuesday morning.

Blackwell’s bill would change key aspects of the code’s provision establishing Registered Community Organizations, by requiring that not only RCOs but also everyone living within a block of a property where a development is proposed be notified of the proposal, and by allowing District Council members to decide how many meetings should take place between developers and neighborhood groups and to appoint representatives to the Civic Design Review Committee.

O’Neill’s bills would make the CMX-2 and CMX-2.5 districts—classifications for neighborhood commercial corridors, of which the Councilman’s 10th District has fewer than any other district—more restrictive in terms of what uses are allowed. They would additionally create a new district—CMX-2.2—that mirrors the standards currently contained in CMX-2 districts; the new district would have to be remapped into each commercial corridor piece by piece.

Eva Gladstein, deputy director of the Philadelphia City Planning Commission, told PlanPhilly that if adopted, the amendments would “seriously alter” the four-month-old zoning code. You can sign up to testify at the Rules Committee hearing here.

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

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