Planning Commission holds hearing on new regulations

The Philadelphia City Planning Commission held a public hearing Tuesday afternoon to gather testimony on its proposed new regulations for implementing the zoning code. The hearing was requested by several members of the public at a Commission meeting back in April, during which witnesses testified in opposition to various provisions.

The witnesses were, for the most part, familiar.

Bryan McHale, a member of the Design Advocacy Group’s steering committee, predicted and pre-empted other witnesses’ protests, and testified in favor of the Registered Community Organization provision. He said it was created to solve the connected problems of communities not knowing when developments are proposed in their neighborhoods, and developers not knowing which groups to seek input from. The RCO provision forces meetings between community groups for large, impactful projects.

Theresa McCormick and Tiffany Green, of Concerned Citizens of Point Breeze, both testified in opposition to the RCO provision and the increased amount of by-right development allowed in the new code generally.

“This process has been totally disrespectful and disregarding of the community at large,” said Green, who added that the RCO provision was “exclusionary, unconstitutional, and somewhat borderline racist.”

Green said, as she has said in previous meetings, that the RCO regulation favors wealthier, better-organized community groups at the expense of poorer groups, in particular “black and brown communities.” The Commission has consistently defended the RCO provision as a tool for all community groups interested in influencing development, and a hindrance to none.

Green also questioned why there is no disclosure requirement for Community Benefits Agreements between developers and neighborhood groups. An earlier version of the zoning code required these agreements to be submitted to the Commission, but it was removed last fall at the suggestion of Councilman Bill Green.

Craig Schelter of Development Workshop also detailed a series of recommendations for changing the regulations which he’d originally raised in a letter to the Commission dated April 17, 2012. The letter is attached to this story.

No Commissioners responded to testimony for the duration of the hearing. A stenographer recorded witnesses’ names and statements, and the Commission will assemble a report suggesting changes—or not—to the new regulations, and take a vote at its next meeting, July 17th.

Watch all the testimony in the video below.

Contact the reporter at and follow him on Twitter @jaredbrey

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