Regulating signs in the city, land bank gaining traction, sewage treatment plant as bird habitat, fuel costs and refinery closures

Sign regulations that will become part of the new zoning code have been drafted by a special working group and shopped around town  to gather constituent input. The draft sign controls will be presented to the Planning Commission today. PlanPhilly’s Jared Brey has been following the civic engagement meetings with different groups around sign controls and sees a pattern in the concerns – from what counts as a sign to limiting visual clutter in the public environment. You can share your “visual preferences” for signage by taking this survey on zoningmatters.org.

A municipal land bank could straighten out the confusion over city-owned vacant land information and disposition. Council members Maria Quiñones-Sánchez and Bill Green have introduced legislation to establish the land bank, and the state appears poised to pass enabling legislation soon. The Inquirer editorializes in favor of a new land bank today, saying it’s “a welcome and long-overdue tool to help neighborhoods by more quickly and smartly turning blighted properties into productive assets.”

The Inquirer reports about the unlikely habitat for Northern rough-winged swallows created by a Northeast Philly sewage treatment plant. Rather than migrating, the swallows have been wintering at the plant living on tiny insects and probably roosting near warm pipes. Maintenance manager Richard Stasiorowski said, “We have a mini-ecosystem.”

Gas prices are climbing again, and the closed or idled refineries nearby could be to blame locally. Fuel could become even more expensive, the Inquirer reports, if the Philadelphia Sunoco refinery shuts down in June as planned. The piece points a potential upside: “the increasing price for refined products – gasoline, diesel, heating oil, and jet fuel – might make the refineries more attractive to buyers.”

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