Developers and RCOs Take Heed: the Zoning Code Changes on March 25, 2013 — Bill No. 120889

"New" is all relative anyway.

“New” is all relative anyway.

Get ready for some changes in the New Zoning Code.

On January 24, 2013, Philadelphia City Council overrided Mayor Nutter’s veto and voted Bill No. 120889 into place. The Bill goes into effect on March 25, 2013. And just last night, we received a fact sheet from the Philadelphia City Planning Commission that displays the major changes, which mainly affect developers and Registered Community Organizations.

What does this mean for you? Well, if you’re a developer or on the board of a RCO, you have some new rules to follow, and probably some more work to do. Here’s a quick greatest hits.

An Applicant May Have to Do More Work to Notify Neighbors.

Before: An applicant needed to provide written notice of its appeal to the ZBA within 7 days of filing the application.

After: If you’re an applicant developing owner-occupied residential property containing three or fewer residential units — Congrats! You’re in luck, becuase nothing changes for you.

But if you’re developing something else, then you have a lot more work to do as of March 25. Now, you’ll have to personally provide written notice to the local Councilperson for the project, as well as “the owner, occupant, managing agent or other responsible person” of each property on blockfaces around the project. These include:

  • every property on the same block;
  • every property on any blockface adjacent to the blockface of the applicant’s property;
  • every property on the blockface across the street from the applicant’s property; and
  • every property on any blockface across the street from a blockface that is adjacent to the blockface of the applicant’s property.

You must provide this notice “by regular mail or hand delivery,” though, thankfully, where there is no evident owner or agent, you can place the notice at the front door of the property. Then, you must provide a copy of the notice to the Commission, L&I, and  (if you’re applying for a special exception) to the ZBA as well.

There is no good-faith effort standard attached to this requirement — so you must provide this blocks with notice as required by the new bill. 

Here’s the graphic from the PCPC fact sheet showing which blockfaces applicants are required to personally notify:

PCPC Zoning Changes Blockface Notification

Start budgeting more for printing costs. Bonus: you’ll at least get some more exercise.

This new notification requirement is in addition to all the other steps that an applicant was already required to take — including notifying the RCOs within 7 days of its appeal, meeting with the RCOs before the ZBA hearing, and posting its orange zoning signs at least 21 days before its hearing before the ZBA.

RCOs Now Have More Notice Work to Do, Too.

RCO Zoning Committees, this means you —  you have to follow the same rules for noticing meetings as developers. So all that work I described above? Yeah, you have to do that too. Start budgeting for increased postage and printing costs now.

The Rules for RCO/Applicant Meetings Have Changed.

Before: Under the New Code as enacted in August 2012, Local RCOs were supposed to to coordinate and hold a single meeting for any projects that were located in their jurisdiction. Additional meetings could be held if the applicant and the RCOs agreed to do so.

After: In the case of multiple RCOs with jurisdiction over a property, multiple meetings are now allowed.

Local RCOs may request to have a separate meeting with an applicant. As  long as the RCO gets the approval of their local district council-member, the Philadelphia City Planning Commission, and the ZBA, then the applicant must meet separately with the RCO requesting that separate meeting. This could mean more work and more meetings with community groups for applicants, if the RCOs follow the guidelines and request this.

RCO Eligibility Criteria Are Different.

Before: The Philadelphia City Planning Commission was allowed to create regulations that dictate the requirement for a RCO.

After: The PCPC no longer has authorization to create these regulations. RCOs need only follow the minimum requirements provided by the Code.

RCO Registration Guidelines Have Changed.

Before: RCOs were required to re-register annually.

After: RCOs now must register only once every three years. But the RCO must update its information if contacts or boundaries change.

RCOs Might Have More Say on the Civic Design Review Committee.

Before: The Civic Design Review committee was made of six regular members, and one rotating member who’s part of a local RCO. If multiple RCOs were involved, then they had to decide between themselves one person to send.

After: RCOs may now have up to two local representatives, and maybe a third, at the local District Councilperson’s discretion.

I wonder what other tinkering is still in store.

Sources:

A Certified Copy of Bill No. 1280991 is available here: Certified Copy of Bill No. 120889.

The Philadelphia City Planning Commission Fact Sheet is available here: Fact Sheet Bill 120889 RCOs.

2 Responses to Developers and RCOs Take Heed: the Zoning Code Changes on March 25, 2013 — Bill No. 120889

  1. kyle says:

    The University City Empowerment Coalition (UCEC) has really helped keep development tasteful around UPenn.

  2. […] previously wrote about changes to the Philadelphia Zoning Code that took affect in March […]

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