Philly Council committee puts development reorganization plan on hold

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A move to reorganize seven Philadelphia city departments into one entity to oversee planning is in limbo.

It’s on hold even though a controversial portion of the plan has been removed.

A broad coalition of groups that normally wouldn’t be on the same page showed up before City Council to lobby against the plan.

A key amendment has removed the Department of Licenses and Inspections from the proposed Department of Planning and Development.

Craig Schelter is executive director of the Development Workshop, an advocacy group for real estate developers. He says he’s hopeful a commission is formed to work out remaining problems with the proposal.

“I think, ideally, what you would do is have Council and the mayor name a group of people that would get together and say, ‘What would it take to put the amendments to the resolution in a form that would be acceptable?'” he said.

A number of controversial items remain in the proposal, Schelter said, including giving City Council veto power over who’s nominated to run the new department.

“The oversight of Council approving the person, approving the transition plan. I think those things need to come out,” he said.

Council President Darrell Clarke came up with the plan to combine the planning commission, the zoning board of adjustment and historical commission, among others, into one agency.

“I’m pretty excited about the level of dialog that we’ve had. We think that the input that we’ve had from the stakeholders/constituency is important, and we will continue to adopt those issues that have been brought before us,” Clarke said.

Time is running low for this proposed charter change to get a hearing and still be put to voters in the May primary, but Clarke isn’t giving up on that yet.

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