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Planning Commission votes against bill to ban medical offices

2/6/2014 | Real Estate Blog

How should zoning laws in Philadelphia work? Should the city strictly adhere to the rules when allowing new businesses to move into certain neighborhoods? Or should the residents of those neighborhoods have a say in whether they approve a prospective neighbor, even if it goes against zoning laws?

Recently, three Philadelphia councilmen introduced an idea to allow residents to contribute to the approval process. If a new business wanted to set up shop in a neighborhood and residents approved, then the city planning board could approve it, too, even if it didn’t comply with the area’s zoning code. The chairman of the Philadelphia City Planning Commission said, however, that the zoning board would probably not allow that to happen.

The Planning Commission recently voted against a bill that would prevent new dental and medical facilities from opening in a certain district of Philadelphia. The bill seeks to change the current zoning laws for that area. Although the councilman who proposed the bill is one of the men who believes residents should have a say in what businesses go into their neighborhoods, the chairman says this could create unfair, and possibly illegal situations.

He provided an example to back up this claim. If a neighborhood was allowed to vote against new businesses, it’s likely that every neighborhood in the city would disallow methadone clinics. If no methadone clinics were allowed to open anywhere in Philadelphia, the city could face a federal lawsuit.

Although the Philadelphia City Planning Commission has voiced its opinions on this matter, its opinions are merely advisory. It will be interesting to see if city officials follow its recommendation.

Source: Plan Philly, “Planning Commission says no to medical office bans, yes to LOVE Park garage transfer,” Jared Brey, Jan. 28, 2014