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City Council's decision on zoning bills will shape neighborhood commercial corridors

It took four years to create the city's new zoning code and less than four months for City Council members to start picking it apart.

Council will return Thursday morning to move on a set of bills that will impact neighborhood commercial corridors.

"For me it's very disrespectful that we engaged in a four year process and now we attempt to build a whole new code section in a matter of a month," said Councilwoman Maria Quinones-Sanchez, who was referring to two bills sponsored by Councilman Brian O'Neill that would revert the new zoning code to back to the old code by limiting what businesses are permitted on neighborhood shopping strips.

Council's Committee on Rules will meet in the morning to either approve or deny O'Neill's proposals and as a result of a pending ordinance, the bills would go into effect immediately said Quinones-Sanchez.

The bills would restrict certain uses on neighborhood commercial corridors like personal care homes, animal services and community gardens and requires zoning board approval or a council ordinance for other businesses like a deli, ice cream parlor or art studio and a transit station –just as it did under the old zoning code.

O'Neill has said he is trying to preserve the character of neighborhoods. The bill was held in Committee last week after several Council members raised concerns. O'Neill was working to make amendments to the bill Wednesday, but said he was unsure what the new changes would be.

The Nutter administration strongly opposes the proposals and has said it would create additional hurdles for small businesses and costly delays.

"I do not want to be involved in every single bit of discussion about an ice cream shop or a deli," said Quinones-Sanchez. "I want to encourage it. My concern is you rewrite a code in a month and you don't look at what the unintended consequences are."