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City Council proposes 40 changes to zoning code

10/27/2011 | Real Estate Blog

On Thursday, a resolution was passed by the Philadelphia City Council which contains 40 changes to the city’s zoning code, which by all accounts is out of date. The resolution is a big step in the rewrite process, which is four years in. Sources said it is hoped that the rewrite will be completed by the end of the year.

The proposed amendments, which will now go to the Zoning Code Commission, came after a period of months in which there were hearings and negotiations. The commission now has 60 days to make revisions to the amendments, and then the Council will hold a hearing prior to voting on them.

The decision to reform the code came in 2007 after the issue was placed on referendum. Almost 80 percent of voters supported the establishment of the Zoning Code Commission.

Those who support reforms to the zoning code point to the dramatic changes in Philadelphia in the last 50 years, and to the fact that the zoning code has not kept pace. The code reportedly dates back to 1962, and was designed in part to regulate post-World War II development in areas of the city that were not as yet developed, as well as to shape already existing neighborhoods by encouraging suburban construction.

The code has been accused of failing to address numerous modern land uses that weren’t available at the time it was established, as well as failing to protect Philadelphia neighborhoods from negative development trends. Other drawbacks of the current code, according to supporters, are that it doesn’t encourage placing housing, jobs, and public services near areas of public transit; it doesn’t support earth-friendly building technologies; nor does it protect open space as valuable in itself.

The Zoning Code Commission will be evaluating the recommendations made for revision of the code and is expected to submit a final code for a vote by the middle of November.

Source: Philadelphia Inquirer, “Crucial zoning reforms are within reach,” Rose Gray, Cicely Peterson-Magnum, October 26, 2011.