Third-district Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell introduced a resolution into City Council Thursday morning calling for Council's Rules Committee to hold hearings investigating "the creation of Registered Community Organizations and the impact they will have on the community."
The Resolution, which was introduced during Council's last meeting until September, suggests that the hearings are necessary because of concerns about RCOs' impact on community involvement in the zoning process.
For example, the resolution states, "It is suspected that Registered Community Organizations will have more influence over zoning matters than members of the community who are not part of a [RCO], but reside in the community that will be impacted by Zoning or Civic Design Review Committee matters ..." It also calls the submission requirements for registering "strict," and says they "require information that is of no immediate benefit."
Throughout the zoning reform process, various groups have protested the RCO provision of the new code, saying it is likely favor organized groups with more money at the expense of leaner or less formal groups. The Planning Commission has sought to assure those groups that the public comment on development projects will still be open to everyone, and that RCOs’ opinions will carry no more weight than non-RCOs’.
"The primary reason for this is to make sure this is an inclusive process," said Chris Riddick, an aide to Councilwoman Blackwell. Riddick also said Blackwell had concerns about District Councilmembers getting the same notice of development projects as RCOs.
An unofficial copy of the ordinance is available below. No legislation is finalized before it is posted on Phila.gov, which this resolution has yet to be.
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Authorizing the City Council Committee on Rules to hold hearings to investigate the creation of Registered Community Organizations and the impact they will have on the community.
Whereas, Registered Community Organizations (RCO) will be created on August 22, 2012, when the new zoning code goes into effect; and
Whereas, In order to become a Local Registered Community Organization, organizations must meet the strict requirements established by the Philadelphia City Planning Commission, many of which require information that is of no immediate benefit; and
Whereas, Community Organizations created after December 22, 2010, whose boundaries are not at least five blocks, will not be given the opportunity to become a Registered Community Organization; and
Whereas, If a community organization does not become a Registered Community Organization, they will not be provided with the same notice as Registered Community Organizations, and will be adversely affected; and
Whereas, Registered Community Organizations will be responsible for arranging neighborhood meetings between zoning applicants and the community for all zoning appeals prior to the zoning board hearing; and
Whereas, It is suspected that Registered Community Organizations, will have more influence over zoning matters than members of the community who are not part of a Registered Community Organization, but reside in the community that will be impacted by Zoning or Civic Design Review Committee matters; and
Whereas, Currently, community organizations are all notified of zoning appeals at the same time; and
Whereas, District Council members are also at risk of being left out of receiving zoning appeal notifications; and
Whereas, The integrity of the zoning process and the history of community involvement is at jeopardy of being compromised; now therefore, be it
Resolved by the Council of the City of Philadelphia that we hereby authorize the City Council Committee on Rules to hold hearings to investigate the creation of Registered Community Organizations and the impact they will have on the community.
Jannie L. Blackwell
Philadelphia City Council
June 28, 2012