Next Great City Coalition launches E-Petition to pass updated Zoning Code

The Next Great City (NGC) coalition has launched a web-based petition campaign to make a final push for reforming Philadelphia’s archaic zoning code. Citizens can sign the petition online at the Next Great City website: Zoning Reform Link (full link) or use their smart phones to take a picture of the special QR code embedded in this press release. The picture of the QR code will take them directly to the electronic petition. (Note: Smart phones must be equipped with QR application software.)

This petition is the next step in a four-year process that began when NGC identified modern zoning policies as one of the top ways to build a positive future for Philadelphia. In 2007, Next Great City led the efforts which helped to win the approval of 80 percent of Philadelphia voters to establish the Zoning Code Commission, charged with rewriting the code. Since then, the NGC city-wide coalition has supported a new code that is smart, sensible and fair. City Council is scheduled to discuss and take a final vote on the new code proposals in September.

“Council can take action now to reshape our city for the next 50 years. We need modern zoning rules and regulations to help make Philadelphia the Next Great American City,” said Bryan Collins, Philadelphia outreach coordinator for Citizens for Pennsylvania’s Future (PennFuture), which manages the Next Great City Initiative. “Thousands of citizens voted for this change, and community groups from throughout the city support it. Signing the petition is one way we can show Council this broad support for the new zoning code.”

“For four years, dozens of neighborhood and community groups, urban planners and development experts, have actively helped to shape the new code that is simpler, reflects modern urban realities and just makes more sense,” continued Collins. “The commission held public meetings, studied other cities and rewrote the code with the goal of promoting job creation while respecting and preserving neighborhoods. With City Council poised to take a final vote on the commission’s proposals in September, Philadelphians can seize this historic window of opportunity by signing the petition and showing their support.

“The need for a new code is crucial,” said Collins. “The current one is so out-of-date that it defines a milliner’s (hat maker’s) shop, but fails to mention small technology firms, outpatient clinics, a farmer’s market or an art studio. It doesn’t contain provisions for protecting parkland or for bike paths and bike parking space. The 50 year old code is silent on sustainability or the mobility challenges of our expanding elderly population. It’s more than time for a change.”

The new code seeks to improve life for Philadelphians by focusing on:

Neighborhoods: It encourages good development that respects and preserves the character of the city’s neighborhoods and the people in them. It makes common sense rules that are applied consistently and fairly. Residents across the city have had an opportunity to comment and influence the development of the new code; neighbors retain the right to appear before the Zoning Commission on projects in their communities and now they are guaranteed representation on a new Civic Design Review Committee for major projects.

Simplification and Fairness: Under the new code, every developer or homeowner building an addition knows exactly what is allowed and what is prohibited. Currently, 50 different zoning overlays and five decades of amendments make it virtually impossible for residents, developers, or business owners to understand where they can locate and how they can use their existing properties. The new proposals streamline the code: 50 overlays have been replaced by 10. The new code eliminates 200 pages of repetitive and confusing jargon. It clarifies allowable land uses and makes the rules more sensible, consistent, and easy to understand. Fairness and predictability are keys to good zoning.

Business and job creation: The new code will help create jobs and support the growth of small businesses. Aspiring entrepreneurs will benefit from provisions that permit them to operate home-based businesses where appropriate. The code also makes it easier for developers of all sizes to know what and where to build, encouraging important projects and the jobs they bring.

The Elderly: With the highest proportion of older persons in any of the nation’s largest cities, Philadelphia should plan for a city that accommodates their unique needs. Supporting an active and engaged lifestyle for our senior citizens, the new code encourages development around easily-accessible public transportation hubs, and requires 10 percent of the units in large, new residential subdivisions be built to accommodate older adults with limited mobility.

Sustainability: The new code reflects the importance of sustainability in modern urban areas. Location and landscaping decisions must address the need for greening and protection of local air quality and water resources. The code also helps promote public transit, encourages bike parking and accommodates the growing demand for ride shares. The code encourages the use of clean energy sources such as solar panels or wind turbines in good designs. Parks and urban gardens are included in the proposal as routine elements in the fabric of an eco-friendly urban life.

The Next Great City is circulating an action alert to thousands of community groups and individuals, urging them to sign the petition. The e-Petition will be delivered to City Council prior to the scheduled vote in the fall.

The Next Great City coalition is made up of diverse groups all working towards a common goal: making Philadelphia the Next Great City. The coalition includes more than 100 labor groups, civic associations, faith organizations and community development groups. The Next Great City initiative is dedicated to creating a positive future for Philadelphia by advocating for common sense, cost-effective policies that enhance environmental quality, strengthen neighborhoods and increase economic competitiveness. For more information, visit www.nextgreatcity.com

Zoning Reform Petition FULL LINK: http://www.nextgreatcity.com/content/use-ngc-action-message-tell-city-council-you-want-zoning-reform-passed-now

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