Councilwoman Sánchez will amend Norris Square rezoning bill

Councilwoman María Quiñones-Sánchez said Thursday that she would amend her bill that rezones portions of Norris Square from R-10 to R-10A to make its effective date the same as that of the new zoning code, which is August 22, 2012. Sánchez said delaying the bill’s effective date would give some residents of Norris Square time to get permits for multi-unit homes that would be classified single-family after the change takes place.

Some Norris Square residents opposed the bill when it was introduced partially out of concern that they wouldn’t be allowed to rent rooms to family members under R-10A.

“We’ve reached an agreement that will make the [bill] be effective [at the same time as] the new zoning code regulations,” Sánchez said. “So therefore we are working with several property owners to get them to compliance, and we feel that that the [August 22] deadline will give us an opportunity to bring all those owners to compliance.”

Sánchez also said that she had worked out an agreement with Norris Square Civic Association that would alter its plans for the site of the now-demolished St. Boniface church while insuring that no federal Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP2) funds would be lost.

Instead of 15 co-op units at the St. Boniface site, Sánchez said, the new plans include eight single-family homes at that site, each with two parking spots, and more co-op units at other sites in the neighborhood. She said that her office had also worked with NSCA to choose some vacant sites in Norris Square for NSCA to do in-fill development, which Sánchez previously said would be a more appropriate use of the federal money.

According to Sánchez, the new plans create more total units with the same amount of money, while decreasing density. Sánchez said that she and Norris Square Civic Association will co-host a meeting when the plans for St. Boniface and the NSP2 funds are finalized to gather community input.

“We have a very good agreement that I believe dealt with all of our issues,” Sánchez said.

PlanPhilly has not yet had a chance to review the alternate plans.

Also on Thursday, Councilwoman Sánchez added more amendments to a bill she introduced in March which requires vacant-property owners to seal openings on their buildings with industrial strength tools. Specifically, the bill requires that inadequate windows and doors of vacant buildings be secured with a “commercial-quality, 14-gauge, rust-proof steel security panel or door” or a material deemed equivalent by L&I.

The most recent amendments are mainly minor, and clarify the definitions of Large Vacant Commercial or Industrial Properties (LVCIPs) and Foreclosed Vacant Residential Properties (FVRPs). They stipulate, for example, that a new owner of such a property must register the property with L&I within five days of receiving the title. Owners must also post their contact information prominently on the building; the new amendments clarify that the postings must be made using weather-resistant materials.

The amendments also give L&I more leeway to determine when a building is unsafe and needs to be sealed.

“What we want to do is upgrade the code as to what is considered an appropriate seal, and then what is the definition of a dangerous building, beyond one that is about to crumble,” Sánchez said.

Sánchez believes Thursday’s amendments will be the last needed for the bill to pass and be acceptable to the Administration. The amendments were adopted on the floor of Council, and the bill will once again be on Council’s final passage calendar next week.

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