ZCC gets Module 3, the last chapter

With just a few months before the Zoning Code Commission is due to deliver the city’s first new code in decades, the mayor stopped by Wednesday morning to lend some moral support.

“Your work is inspiring Philadelphians,” Mayor Michael Nutter told the commissioners at their monthly meeting. “Citizens are actually excited when they hear about [the work of the ZCC]. I mean that very seriously.

“This is not some easy venture. You’ve been at this for some time. You’ve been hard at work. I have one major, respectful request: keep working hard.”

Nutter dropped in as chief consultant Don Elliott introduced the code’s Module 3 – on “development standards” – what he called “the third and final piece of the puzzle.”

Development guidelines in Module 3 include 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. Separate chapters were written for parking and loading and for signs.

Deputy Mayor Alan Greenberger called the long and detailed module “sort of the book of adjectives” for the code.

Commissioner Natalia Olson Urtecho asked if, given the large scope of changes going on with planning, zoning and re-mapping, it might make sense to undertake an economic development analysis of the new code to measure the impact of it all on the city.

That’s a tricky metric, Elliott said, adding that such an analysis is “not common to do but it’s a great question.” Deciding what to test is difficult, he said, and would likely be expensive.

Greenberger cautioned that such analyses might rely too much on “soft science” when measuring such a thing, and besides, things are tough enough for developers. “We live in a city where the margins of successful development are precarious,” he said.

Elliott said that whatever extra costs come via a new zoning code will be offset by greater efficiencies and a simpler overall way of doing business. “I don’t think we have anything in here that adds to development costs.”

The next community meeting of the ZCC will be next Tuesday, July 20, at the Arch Street United Methodist Church (55 N. Broad Street) at 6 p.m.

Contact the reporter at TWalsh@PlanPhilly.com.

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