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O’Neill says Zoning Code draft could hurt the Northeast

This is the second in a two-part look at zoning in the Northeast. Read part one here.

Councilman Brian O’Neill and the Zoning Code Commission’s executive director argued over zoning regulations at the April meeting of the Greater Bustleton Civic League. The draft is the first citywide revision of the zoning laws in 50 years.

ZCC Executive Director Eva Gladstein said parts of the code may apply to the Northeast more than other areas.

One of those issues is family-based childcare in the home. The restrictions in place for such an establishment are not changing for family-based childcare. The one distinction is the amount of children allowed in the home.

“For childcare in someone’s home, in the 6th and 10th council districts, the number of non-related children allowed in the home is only four. In the rest of the city the number is up to six,” Gladstein said.

Zoning classifications for parks and recreations will be changed under the draft.

“One thing we’re doing is enabling private participles to be zoned for parks,” Gladstein said. “Now it says only land owned by the city can be a park.”

The new code is requiring new developers to notify registered civic associations and to have a neighborhood meeting before completing their zoning variance.

“I think that will be positively affecting the Northeast since it has so many active civic associations,” Gladstein said.

The number of days allotted for posting a zoning hearing is being increased to 21 days. Another posting is being required if the hearing is continued to another day.

The Zoning Code Commission is changing the organization of the code.

“Instead of listing any possible permissible use, we’re classifying categories of uses that are permitted,” Gladstein said. The goal of the commission by changing the way things are organized in the new zoning code is to make the code easier for residents to read and understand. The new zoning code will make use of graphs and charts to further that goal.

“One of our goals is to make the things that work in all the zoning universal,” Gladstein said.

She said people need to make sure they review the uses allowed in each zoning district because each district is not an exact replica of what’s permitted everywhere.

“The zoning board is going to be more consistent,” Gladstein said. “They have to give reasons for why they deny or accept. We’re trying to set up clear practices at the zoning board so everything is very clear.”

Gladstein gave a presentation of the new zoning code at the GBCL meeting.

“We know the code isn’t perfect yet. We’re trying to get feedback so we can keep making it better and better,” Gladstein said.

The preliminary draft of the code will be presented to City Council for revisions later this month. The revised draft will be sent back to the council and be voted for or against.

“We’re really asking you to focus on this because it affects your life,” Gladstein said.

O’Neill said he thinks the zoning code is a disaster for regions outside of Old City and Center City, which are under pressure for development.

“[The revised zoning draft] was supposed to be focused on areas where the zoning code didn’t match, where people weren’t happy with the zoning code,” O’Neill said. “The areas that are stable, we were not supposed to be hurt. This code not only hurts us but everything in here is a remapping. It’s a backdoor remapping. When this code is approved in its current form your whole neighborhood will change as to what is allowed next door to you, down the block, around the corner and it’s a downgrade. It is not an upgrade.”

O’Neill said he only voted for the preliminary code in February so that people could have something to actually look at. But he said he can’t accept it in its current form.

He pointed out examples in the code of things that are changing in what he sees as a negative way. Multi-family home occupation will now be allowed as a right.

“People don’t want homes with a staff and delivery. They want single family homes,” O’Neill said.

Bustleton resident Harry Haberkern said he doesn’t want the zoning codes in the Northeast to change.

“It should be single-family dwellings and that’s it,” Haberkern said. “I hope all newly elected councilmen listen to Councilman O’Neill and Councilman [Bill] Green.”

O’Neill also said every house can be a bed and breakfast under the draft.

“There’s no problem and yet someone is offering a solution, or should we say, about to shove it down your throat,” O’Neill said.

Bill Rubin, O’Neill’s opponent in the 10th District race, agrees with the minority leader on local control.

“It’s not a burden for the civic associations in the Northeast to handle these issues,” Rubin said. “I’ve been to the civic groups in the Northeast. I’ve seen those individuals come to the floor and say, ‘Not in my neighborhood.'”

O’Neill said he would only approve the new code if the Northeast was separated from remapping.

“There is absolutely no reason,” O’Neill added. The only changes that should be made in areas like the Far Northeast is if we’re restricting zoning, not making it more permissible.”

To see the zoning code in full and give feedback visit http://www.zoningmatters.org/.

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