Thursday night's Central Delaware Advisory Group meeting began with some panic over the overlay designed to keep Central Delaware Riverfront development in line with the city's vision for the waterfront's future.
Both new CDAG Chairman Matt Ruben and new First District City Councilman Mark Squilla said they had been told by city planners that the overlay would expire when the Philadelphia City Planning Commission adopts the Central Delaware Master Plan, a step the commission is expected to take in February.
Were this so, it would mean waterfront development would follow the base zoning in the existing zoning code. Developers would not need to build at least 50 feet away from the river. They wouldn't have to send their projects to the planning commission for Plan of Development approval. And, depending on the base zoning and any other overlay, parking garages could be a main use on the east side of the highway, and “big box stores” wouldn't be banned, either.
“Not having that overlay is going to undo the Waterfront Master Plan,” CDAG Member Dianne Mayer said. “People will be rushing in there, and putting in whatever they want.”
But that turns out not to be the case.
According to top planning and zoning officials contacted Friday by PlanPhilly, the passage of the Master Plan is in no way linked to the demise of the current zoning overlay.
“The current overlay will expire only when the new zoning code takes effect on 8/22/2012, or should a new overlay be passed under the current zoning code. Until then, the current overlay remains in force,” PCPC Executive Director Gary Jastrzab said in an email. “The PCPC act of adopting the Central Delaware Riverfront Plan will have no effect on the underlying zoning.” Jastrzab sent a similar email to city planning staffers.
In other matters related to the overlay, Squilla told CDAG that landowners may need to be incentivized “to buy into the waterfront plan.” He talked with PlanPhilly about this in more detail in an earlier interview.
He also suggested the area covered by the overlay might have to be shortened in the beginning, and more land added to it “as we go forward.”
“There are questions and concerns from the administration and from other people about how this overlay will effect development of the waterfront,” he said.
“I'm a big advocate of the waterfront, and I think that somehow we need to incorporate the trail the whole way through the seven mile stretch. I think it's a big part of it. But we might have to try to come up with different ways to make that happen,” he said.
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