It's the market, more than politics or zoning processes, that determines whether developers keep drawing up plans and pouring concrete in Philadelphia, according to one consultant.
Still, the city's zoning and planning process is not exactly one that developers love dealing with. There's the confusion over zoning rules; the myriad departments that need to approve sometimes simple requests (as many as 14, for some); the battle with community groups and the zoning board; a zoning code overflowing with overlays and changes made on an individual, piecemeal basis.
Today's Primary Concerns looks at the issue and what the next mayor would do to help streamline the zoning process in the city.
What happens next could depend on whether voters approve a May 15 ballot refrendum that would create a Zoning Reform Commission, which would study the issue and make reccomendations to City Council for wholesale changes. Other related referendums include one that would professionalize the planning commission, ensuring that qualified individuals with the proper experience sit on it.
A similar measure addressing the funhouse of the zoning board was killed by politics; Councilman Jim Kenney was forced to withdraw his attempt at ensuring qualifications for those sitting on that board. Kenney says it's dead for now. (The next mayor will put his own picks on the board, anyway.)
"It was a mistake, but mistakes happen," zoning board Chairman David Auspitz said of Kenney's attempt. "Sometimes things sound good, but when you think about them they're not."
Auspitz rationalizes that mandating qualifications isn't a good move because it's important that people feel comfortable with the board's members.
"They feel comfortable with other people [like them] up there," he said.