We’ll venture a guess that most of the folks who stop by this blog on their daily circuit through the interwebs probably read lots of other planning sites too. If you do, then you’ll know that there’s already been lots of coverage and opinions voiced of yesterday’s action-packed hearings in City Council which, among other things, concerned Registered Community Organizations and uses in commercial districts. These last two links are likely the most thorough recap of what went down, but here it is in a quicker format in case you’re behind:
New RCO rules
More notice and more meetings?
Council more involved
2.5 less 2
Does not equal 2.2
We’ll see what happens
That’s all we’ll say about these bills at this time. What we will say more broadly is that we’re very pleased that these and other zoning issues are making the topic of zoning an increasingly mainstream thing in Philadelphia.
Of course, we were already ahead on this front. READ MORE
Then we encourage you to follow these two excellent Twitter feeds for up-to-the-second accounts of testimony and debate in City Council over bills relating to commercial uses and RCOs:
We would have told you sooner, but we’ve been hitting refresh like a maniac.
Believe it or not, neither Philadelphia’s City Council nor our Mayor are omnipotent. As much as it can seem like legislation flies around willy nilly at the intersection of Broad and Market Streets, there’s a lot of stuff we can’t do without state authorizing legislation. That phrase means what it sounds like: something has to change at the state level for local governments to be granted the authority to implement certain policies. This is true in Pennsylvania of Business Improvement Districts (BIDs…keep that google doc of acronyms nice and fresh!), as one example. BIDs collect additional assessments to pay for services, and in Pennsylvania they need authorizing legislation to behave that way. This means that groups like Center City District (CCD) function as they do thanks in part to action in Harrisburg.
This morning, two other state-related matters are hot off the presses:
1) Authorizing legislation for Land Banks: The Citywide Vision discusses a land bank as one strategy for better managing and disposing of the city’s vacant land. City Council has thought about it but the legislation that’s been introduced at the city level requires the passage of a state bill to hit the books first. In other words, Philadelphia does not have the permission to create a land bank without the state bill, which just passed the Senate yesterday and needs approval from the House as well.
2) City seeking new taxing powers: Pretty much everyone agrees we need to adjust our tax structure to generate more revenue for city services, encourage development, and enable home ownership and business creation. PCPC and other groups support the idea of moving to a system that more smartly taxes our fixed assets (property). This morning, the Inky reports that the Mayor, Council President, AND School District are pursuing several changes in Harrisburg that would enable the city to move forward with AVI, and do so with tools to mitigate some of the potential negative consequences. The legislation also deals with being able to tax commercial property differently than residential, another thing the city is not allowed to do at this time.
We know it’s dry stuff, but the life or death of these bills in that strange city to our west have tremendous impact on policy development and implementation in Philadelphia, and at the end of the day, the bottom line of the city’s budget, the bank accounts of homeowners, and the speed, efficiency, and sense with which we can improve our physical environment.