City Council’s Committee on Rules recommended approval of an amended bill reorganizing the rules for Registered Community Organizations in a split vote Wednesday morning, but the bill won’t be able to move forward until next year.
Councilman Bobby Henon, the bill’s sponsor, was finalizing amendments up until the last minute.
In addition to the changes outlined in a previous story, the bill requires the Planning Commission to provide a written explanation when it denies a group RCO status, allow district Council members to select “joint coordinating RCOs,” and allow for RCOs to register without providing a location at which their meetings routinely take place.
The changes were made in response to suggestions from Councilwomen Jannie Blackwell and Cindy Bass, according Henon’s office.
Blackwell is still unhappy with the bill, and she wanted more amendments.
For example, she had asked Henon to include a provision allowing groups to appeal decisions of the Planning Commission in approving or disapproving groups’ RCO status, but Henon only went halfway, requiring the Commission to explain its refusals.
She also thinks RCOs should be purely nonprofit groups, while the amended bill allows Neighborhood Improvement Districts and Special Services Districts to become RCOs.
The spread of property owners that must be notified of zoning applications—those on the same block as the property, across the street, and anywhere within 200 feet of the property line—is too small, according to Blackwell. Her previous changes had required the notification of every property owner on the nine surrounding block-faces.
Blackwell referred to the amendments as “another way to undermine the community …”
Wednesday’s vote happened during a public meeting at which no public testimony was given. The Philadelphia Association of Community Development Corporations did send a letter to Councilman Henon asking for a few changes, which can be read here.
The vote from the Rules Committee was unanimous to adopt the amendments, but split 4-2 on the vote for favorable recommendation. Council members Wilson Goode, Jr., and Marian Tasco voted against the recommendation.
I will now predict the future: even if this bill passes next year with no further amendments, we haven’t seen the last of the changes to the Registered Community Organization procedures.
Jared Brey is a freelance reporter based in Philadelphia. His work has been featured in Philadelphia magazine, Hidden City, The Philadelphia Inquirer, City & State, and other publications. He covered development, zoning policy, historic preservation, and city government for PlanPhilly from 2011-2016.