The new Central Delaware Riverfront Overlay – a zoning document meant to keep future development in line with the city's vision for the riverfront – was introduced at city council Thursday morning.
But there is not enough time before council goes on summer recess for the new overlay to become law, unless council adds another meeting at the end of June.
“I don't think it will be passed this session,” said First District Councilman Mark Squilla, who introduced the bill. There has been no discussion of an extra June meeting, he said. But even though the existing, interim overlay is set to expire when the new city zoning code goes into effect Aug. 22, Squilla remains hopeful the waterfront will not go without overlay protection.
“There may be time for a (committee) hearing,” he said.
The legislation was referred to the Rules Committee. Planning Commission Deputy Executive Director Eva Gladstein has previously said if Rules holds a hearing and votes the legislation favorably out, the overlay would be considered pending legislation, and the city's Department of Licenses and Inspections would have to apply it to any permit applications. Gladstein was in meetings until late Tuesday, but early Wednesday morning, she sent an email saying, "We will work with the Councilman to support any appropriate option that will result in the overlay being reported out of Committee before Council recesses."
Squilla said he's talked to planning about another possibility: An amendment to an existing bill - likely the zoning code “clean up” bill – that would keep the current, interim overlay in place until council can adopt the new overlay.
The councilman hopes final adoption of the new overlay will happen shortly after council returns from recess in September. If the bill does make it favorably out of committee before break begins, council could adopt it as soon as the second meeting after they return.
Should neither of these options pan out, and the waterfront is without an overlay from mid-August until sometime in September, Squilla does not think there is much risk to the goals laid out in the Central Delaware Master Plan, which include the creation of a multi-purpose trail, a network of green space, mostly mid-rise, mixed use development, and river access. The Master Plan has been adopted by the planning commission, he said, and so city agencies are required to consider it when making waterfront decisions.
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