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Zoning 101: Community involvement – will this be on the test?

6/27/2014 | Real Estate Blog

When baby boomers think back on high school or college, there may have been nothing as devastating and perplexing as getting an essay back with a grade, a few stray comments and, next to one paragraph, a simple “No.” Nothing else. No explanation, no “see chapter 7,” nothing. Just that one word with all its finality and all its mystery.

Developers can take comfort in knowing that the Philadelphia Department of Licenses and Inspections will never reject an application for a project with a simple, maddening “No.” If L&I denies an application, the letter informing the developer will also include an explanation of the specific ways the project does not meet the state’s zoning requirements. The letter will also include information about how to appeal that denial to the Zoning Board of Adjustment.

Some would say that that is when the real work starts.

A representative from the Philadelphia City Planning Commission recently explained zoning to a group of citizens who participate in or are interested in participating in Registered Community Organizations. The presentation came just a few days before the June 30 deadline to register an RCO.

Who or what is an RCO? We often talk about zoning appeal hearings and citizen testimony, and we write about community support or opposition to a proposal. While anyone can testify at a zoning meeting, for the most part those speakers are delegates of RCOs representing the neighborhoods surrounding the proposed development. Those official letters of support or opposition come from RCOs as well.

What types of projects can RCOs chime in on? We’ll get into more detail in our next post.

Source: UC Review, “Philadelphia Planning Commission gives the ‘skinny’ on zoning and the RCO process,” Nicole Contosta, June 25, 2014