Planning Commission to City Council: Approve bills creating new zoning code

Planning Commissioners Tuesday lent their support to three bills related to the adoption of the city's new zoning code, which City Council is expected to vote on Thursday.

Zoning Bill 110845 is the text of the new zoning code, based on the final report of the Zoning Code Commission.

Zoning Bill 110844 transfers the language establishing zoning-related fees from the zoning code to the Administrative Code.

Zoning Bill 110835
allows the appeal of conditional zoning approvals to the Zoning Board of Adjustment.  ZCC Executive Director Eva Gladstein said the hope is to change the name “conditional zoning approvals” to “conditional zoning permits.”

Bill 110845 replaces the current zoning code with the text reached by the ZCC after four years of work, Gladstein said. It would become effective eight months after council acts and the mayor signs the legislation.

Zoning fee language has been removed from the new code, so without Bill 110844, the city could charge no zoning fees.

The conditional zoning approvals/permits bill involves “a new creature” that gives developers whose projects can be built under existing base zoning, but require a design review, the option of a two step-process, Gladstein said. Step one: Acquire a conditional permit stating that the project meets almost all the requirements of the zoning code, including those relating to dimensional standards, open space, subdivision regulations where applicable, some landscaping and parking and loading. Final approval would confirm those things, and also assure that the project met other requirements, including those regarding form and design, tree preservation and planting and outdoor lighting.

Craig Schelter of the Development Workshop praised the conditional permits bill.

One year after the new code goes into effect, a report will be made to city council suggesting any needed changes to the code. “Does that mean any major changes will not come until 20  months after approval?” he asked.

Commission Chairman and deputy mayor for planning and economic development Alan Greenberger said that's when a report on glitches that need to be fixed will come forward, but the zoning code can be amended at any time, and any serious problems seen in the code will be fixed when they are discovered.

Schelter also asked when new zoning related to the Central Delaware Master Plan – the city's long-range vision for the Delaware Riverfront from Oregon to Allegheny avenues – will be ready. It will replace the current Central Delaware Overlay.  “We intend to get it done before the effective date” of the new zoning code, Greenberger said.
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About the author

Kellie Patrick Gates, Waterfront, casinos, planning reporter

Kellie Patrick Gates writes about planning, neighborhood development and the Central Delaware Waterfront. A journalist for more than two decades, she  worked for daily newspapers in Central Pennsylvania, Upstate New York and South Florida before coming to Philadelphia in 2003 to write for the Inquirer. Her work has appeared on PlanPhilly since 2007, and she also writes Love, the Inquirer's weekly wedding column. A native of Elk County, Pa., Kellie lives with her husband, Gary, and their dog and two cats.

Follow her on Twitter @KelliePGates

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