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Council Committee approves shortened list of changes to commercial corridor zoning

    • Council Committee approves shortened list of changes to commercial corridor zoning
      Council Committee approves shortened list of changes to commercial corridor zoning

An amended version of 10th-District Councilman Brian O’Neill’s Bill No. 120917 was favorably reported out of City Council’s Committee on Rules Thursday morning, by a split vote of 4-3. O’Neill, along with members of City Council and the Planning Commission, was floating a variety of compromises until the last minute. A different amendment offered by the Administration was defeated by another split vote in the Committee.

Because of the pending ordinance doctrine, O’Neill’s zoning changes are immediately enforceable by the Department of Licenses and Inspections. The bill will not go before a vote of the full Council until next year.

The changes that the bill makes are scaled back from O’Neill’s original proposal. In the new zoning code, things like community gardens are allowed by right in neighborhood commercial corridors zoned CMX-2. O’Neill’s original proposal would have prohibited that use in that district. His amended bill makes it a special exception, which still requires zoning board approval and notice to Registered Community Organizations, but transfers the burden of evidence from the applicant to any potential objectors.

Councilman O’Neill decided to hold another bill, No. 120916, which would have created a new CMX-2.2 district mimicking the code’s current CMX-2.5 classification that would have to be mapped in district by district.

The proposal that passed prohibits group living, personal care homes, single-room residences, and visitor accommodations in CMX-2 districts. It makes transit stations, community gardens, and moving and storage facilities special exceptions.

Some members of City Council remain opposed to the bill approved by the Committee Thursday morning.

“Frankly, I wasn’t for any change to any of this at the moment,” said At-Large Councilman Bill Green, who along with O’Neill was the most active Council member in the zoning reform process. “There was a lot of time and effort spent on getting this right at the Zoning Code Commission and I think it should have had the opportunity to play out. So it’s disappointing to me that we’re already amending it. Some of Councilman O’Neill’s amendments in fact went back and were more restrictive than the zoning code we replaced, which is exactly the opposite of the intent of everything we worked on for four years. I thought that the Administration was trying to be accommodating and strike the right balance and that their efforts should be supported.”

Councilwoman María Quiñones-Sánchez, whose district is more affected by O’Neill’s proposal than any other, said she plans to offer an amendment to the bill before it goes before the full Council.

“I still do not have enough time to go back to my groups, and last night I was getting calls from my groups about how this hurts them,” said Sánchez. “So I expect to have an amendment that will go on the floor to better address the concerns, but I don’t have the time to do that in time for today.”

Councilman O’Neill said he had compromised with other Council members who were opposed and would continue to refine the bill if necessary.

“I’d say what went through this morning is probably 20 to 25 percent of what I’d originally set out,” said Councilman O’Neill. “… We may do some more compromising while it’s sitting on final passage. I’m not trying to gut the zoning code; I’m just trying to improve it.”  

The latest version of the bill is attached to this article.


Contact the reporter at and follow him on Twitter @jaredbrey

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About the author

Jared Brey, Zoning and development reporter

Jared Brey writes about development, zoning policy, and city government for PlanPhilly.com. He wasn't interested in being a reporter until halfway through a master's program in journalism at Temple University that he intended to parlay into an academic career. His work has appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer, Daily News, City Paper, Business Journal, and Metropolis. 

Jared grew up in Montgomery County and moved to Philadelphia in 2005. He has since lived in Brewerytown, the Italian Market, North Central, Bella Vista, and East Passyunk. He believes he will stay in South Philadelphia. Follow him on Twitter @jaredbrey, or send him tips at jbrey@planphilly.com.


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