Zoning Code Commission approves revamped city rule book

By Troy Graham
Inquirer Staff Writer

After four years of work and weeks of ironing out the sometimes sticky final details with City Council, the Zoning Code Commission Wednesday unanimously approved a huge reform of Philadelphia's antiquated rule book for building and development.

The new municipal zoning code - a relatively svelte 438-page document - now faces a hearing in the coming weeks and an up-or-down vote in Council.

The fate of the effort has been tenuous at times. Influential Council members, community groups, and special interests have raised fears and objections - a stew of issues capturing the street-level warfare that occurs every time someone tries to build a methadone clinic, nightclub, or other controversial use.

The code now headed to Council seems to have broad support after incorporating a number of concessions to those concerns.
Councilman Bill Green, who sat on the zoning commission, cautioned that "this is the beginning and shouldn't be trumpeted as the end."

He said the change won't spur significant development until the long process of remapping the city to conform to the code is completed.

In that process, some areas now zoned industrial - such as abandoned factory districts and stretches of the Delaware waterfront - can be changed to residential and commercial.

Only that "is going to cause the kind of impact everyone's talking about," Green said, calling the new code "a big baby step."

"It is not transformative," he said. "Remapping is transformative."

The city has been divided into 18 districts for remapping, which could take up to five years. Green has been advocating for more resources to shorten that time to two years "if we want to see any benefit in the Nutter administration."

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"I ran for office four years ago and I am running today because I love this City... My campaign theme in 2007 and still today - 'beholden to none, accountable to all' - reflects my commitment to be a strong, independent voice for all Philadelphians." - Bill Green