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City Council comes to compromise agreement over 50-foot buffer zone for waterways

11/30/2012 | Real Estate Blog

Some time ago, we wrote about a proposal to create a 50-foot buffer zone for streams and rivers in the Philadelphia area. That proposal sparked what was the first big conflict to come out of the new zoning code, pitting environmentalists concerned about protecting waterways against developers worried about the impact of a buffer zoning on their businesses. Last Wednesday the controversy was resolved when City Council reached an agreement on the matter.

A compromise on the issue was reached by making four riverfront uses permissible within the buffer zone. These uses are marine-related, industry, marinas, utilities and city-owned facilities. Previously, these uses would have required zoning approval.

In exchange for those uses, wholesale distribution warehouses and storage was removed as a permissible use inside the buffer, and a 50-foot setback on streams will remain intact. Environmentalists are reportedly pleased with the compromise, which is set to be introduced for final passage on November 29.

According to sources, two council members had attempted to introduce the changes through substantive amendment to the new zoning code, but both eventually agreed that the proposals should go in separate bills. One proposal would set up negotiations between local residents and developers, while another would introduce legislation on Thursday that would leave zoning rules for neighborhood commercial corridors and their overlays intact.

As with other proposals that have come up recently, there has been pushback from planners and advocates for the new code, who say that changing the code only three months after its inauguration is premature.

Others say that there are immediate concerns that need to be addressed, and that a reasonable approach must handle those immediate concerns while holding out for a more widespread review after one year, a measure built into the code itself.

Source: Philadelphia Inquirer, “Phila. Council agrees on 50-foot buffer for streams, rivers in zoning code,” Tony Graham, November 16, 2012