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Philadelphia Lawmakers Modify City’s Brand-New Zoning Code, Over Objections of Authors

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(City Council's Rules Committee votes to make changes to Philadelphia's four-month-old zoning code.  Credit: Mike Dunn)

(City Council’s Rules Committee votes to make changes to Philadelphia’s four-month-old zoning code. Credit: Mike Dunn)

Mike Dunn Mike Dunn
Mike Dunn is City Hall bureau chief for KYW Newsradio 1060. He covers...
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By Mike Dunn

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The City of Philadelphia’s shiny new zoning code — only four months old — is already getting some substantive changes, courtesy of City Council.

And the authors of the new regs aren’t happy.

City Council’s Rules Committee, by a narrow 4-3 vote, today approved changes to the zoning code proposed by 10th District councilman Brian O’Neill.

(City councilman Brian O'Neill, in file photo.)

(City councilman Brian O’Neill, in file photo.)

“I’m not trying to gut the zoning code, I’m just trying to improve it,” O’Neill (right) tells KYW Newsradio.

But the commission that crafted the zoning code wanted no substantive changes until the code had been in force one full year — which doesn’t come for another eight months.

Eva Gladstein, director of the Zoning Code Commission that worked for four years on the new rules, says members are disappointed by Council’s action today.

“There was a hope that with all the effort that went in — including on the part of Council, and the $2 million that was spent, and the time that was spent — that the code would be allowed to work for a little while, to evaluate it.   So we had hoped that there wouldn’t be substantive changes this soon in the process,” Gladstein told KYW Newsradio after the Council vote.

O’Neill’s changes mean certain types of businesses — including group homes, community gardens, and artist’s studios — must go before the zoning board in order to set up shop in commercial corridors.

He did amend his original plan to make the zoning board’s approval less difficult to attain for some of the categories of businesses.

And the veteran councilman thinks it is appropriate to do this now rather than wait until the code is one year old.

“Some fine tuning can’t wait, when you can see it, it’s right there in front of you,” O’Neill says.  “You know it’s not going to be good for communities, and you have to protect them now, not wait.”

The zoning code is a comprehensive set of regulations governing new development, or changes to existing developments, throughout the city.  A final vote on the Council revisions won’t come until January 24th, but L&I must enforce the code as though these revisions are now in force.

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