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Council committee approves zoning changes

Changes are on the way for the city's neighborhood commercial corridors.

A bill that would restrict what types of businesses are permitted on neighborhood shopping strips barely passed City Council's Rules Committee Thursday morning.

Changes were made to the proposal, sponsored by Councilman Brian O'Neill which now allows for a special exception for certain uses like animal services, art studios, community gardens and farms. Under O'Neill's original bill those uses were restricted.

Businesses that fall under special exception would have to go through the zoning board, not Council.

The Nutter administration says the changes are better but there's still some issues with the measure. Eva Gladstein, executive director of the Zoning Code Commission said the changes are more restrictive than the old code for certain uses including assisted living.

"It is an administrative process that will be daunting for some people," Gladstein said. "We had hoped that there wouldn't be substantive changes made this early in the process."

It took four years and $2 million to create the new zoning code. Council had agreed to wait a year before making substantive changes, but just four months after the new code became law Council has begun making changes.

O'Neill's bill goes into effect immediately because it is a pending ordinance, although Council still must give it the final OK.

Some members said the latest bill was much better than the previous but work still need to be done.

O'Neill said additional changes may still be mad between now and January –the earliest the bill could be approved by all of Council.