Mar. 25, 2009
By Kellie Patrick Gates
A waterfront advisory group remains concerned that a proposed zoning overlay doesn’t do enough to protect public access to the riverfront and preserve the goals of the Action Plan for the Central Delaware.
The current legislation proposed by City Councilman Frank DiCicco does not ensure a wide-enough swath of green space between the river and future development, members of the Central Delaware Advisory Group said at a Wednesday morning meeting with DiCicco and the city’s two top planning officials. CDAG is also worried that there will not be enough public access through developed areas to that greenway.
“Our fear is that we’re setting the bar so low, we’re going to have to fight every single time” a proposed development goes before the Planning Commission, said CDAG member John Scorsone.
DiCicco has been trying to balance the concerns of the waterfront land owners with the goals of the Action Plan and the desires of the CDAG – which represents most of the waterfront communities.
CDAG and the land owners have concerns about some of the same sections of legislation, but while CDAG wants a wider section of undeveloped land at the river’s edge, the land owners think the overlay calls for too much set-back. And while CDAG says there isn’t enough detail to guarantee public access at regular intervals, the landowners worry there may be too much potential access.
“Should the public be able to get to every pier?” asked Craig Schelter, executive director of Development Workshop Inc. - a non-profit whose mission it is to promote real estate development in the city. Depending on the use of the property, he said, it might be more wise to limit access, perhaps even for safety reasons.
Brian Abernathy, DiCicco’s director of policy, said that there were still details that would be worked out and added to the legislation before City Council votes on it. But some details are intentionally being left out, to be decided on a case-by-case basis by the Planning Commission. The zoning overlay legislation requires that any waterfront development get Planning Commission approval.
“I thought there was an understanding that this is a placeholder,” Abernathy said.
The overlay would be replaced by a new zoning code based on a waterfront master plan that Deputy Mayor Andy Altman said should be finished in about 16 months.
CDAG gave DiCicco a copy of the overlay with their suggestions in red. CDAG President Steven Weixler stressed that this document is a work in progress, and that changes and additional comments are likely.
Within six months of the passage of the overlay, the Planning Commission has to have regulations in place to further define the overlay requirements. The Planning Commission is set to hear testimony about the Central Delaware Action Plan at its April 21 meeting, and Planning Commission Executive Director Alan Greenberger said he will recommend that the Commission adopt the principles of the Plan, and that the Plan also be used as the basis for the overlay guidelines.
“As long as there is a reference back to the Civic Vision as the backbone, we’ll all feel more comfortable,” said CDAG member Caryn Hunt said.