ZCC bears down on details and dates

We usually don’t start a PlanPhilly news story with a public information announcement but the 35th meeting of the Zoning Code Commission Wednesday morning got us thinking this would be the ideal time to do just that.

So, citizens of Philadelphia, you have less than 60 days to get your public comments and concerns about the newly created work-in-progress zoning code in front of the commission and their consultants.

Now, you may wonder why public feedback to the hundreds of pages of new code, divided into three modules, and the accompanying reams of revisions to the original drafts is so important. Well, as one member of the public stated Wednesday at the meeting in the Planning Commission’s offices, “this will be the code of the next generations.”

Truth be told, the Zoning Code Commission is counting on your interaction because the code is:

1. being rewritten for the first time in decades

2. the job of rewriting, which will be followed by city-wide remapping, is tedious, complex, semantical and the authors are constantly addressing bugs in the drafts because someone from the public realm, whether they be a housewife or an architect, pointed out an inconsistency or inaccuracy.

3. The city is embarking on creating its first comprehensive plan in tandem with the zoning code redo. This opportunity to be part of the immense convergence over how we will deal with our built environment will not come again in our lifetimes.

Deputy Mayor and ZCC Chairman Alan Greenberger made it clear at the start of the meeting that one of the priorities for the commission, which started its zoning rewrite work in 2007, was to “take the whole of what we have done so far and get it known outside this commission.” Specifically, Greenberger said there will be a special briefing for the planning commission on Sept. 7 at 2 p.m. That meeting will be open to the public.

The timeline for getting the new code officially in the books will fall from the Sept. 7 meeting at PCPC. On Sept. 8 the ZCC will meet and review the three modules and integrated changes in a one-shot draft form. That meeting is at 1515 Arch Street at 8 a.m. and is open to the public. Prior to an informational presentation to City Council, civic engagement meetings at 10 district council locations will follow in September and early October. The ZCC will meet twice in October with the goal to get a final code rewrite in front of City Council by Nov. 10 with the hope of getting the code into law by 2011.

Most of Wednesday’s meeting was spent reviewing the development guidelines in Module 3, essentially language regarding floor area bonuses; dimensional standards; form and design; connectivity and circulation; open spaces and natural resources; landscaping and trees; fencing and walls; outdoor lighting; historical preservation  standards; and subdivision standards, parking and loading and for signs. But there was reflection on incendiary issues in Module 1 (Administration and Procedures) and Module 2 (Zoning Districts and Uses)

In terms of recent civic engagement, the ZCC received input from 275 people regarding Module 3. Last month, Mayor Michael Nutter referred to that interaction with the public when he told the commissioners they had become experts about Philadelphia neighborhoods and have established credibility in the city’s many communities.


For full details about the Modules check out ZoningMatters and for key changes to the modules view the photo slideshow.

Contact the reporter at mgolas@planphilly.com

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