IT TOOK FOUR years and $2 million to create the city's new zoning code, and less than four months for City Council to start picking it apart.
A controversial bill sponsored by Councilman Brian O'Neill that would limit the types of businesses permitted on neighborhood shopping strips eked through Council's Rules Committee on Thursday on a 4-3 vote.
"I'm not trying to gut the zoning code. I'm trying to improve it," said O'Neill. Originally, the bill would have reverted back to the old code by restricting certain uses such as personal-care homes, animal services and community gardens. After several members raised concerns, O'Neill made changes that now allow for an exception for certain uses such as animal services, delis, dry cleaners and art studios, which need zoning-board approval.
The bill takes effect immediately, because it's a pending ordinance. But Council still has to approve it next year. Eva Gladstein, executive director of the Zoning Code Commission, said the changes are better, but are more restrictive than the old code for certain uses. It was recommended that Council wait a year before making major changes, and Councilman Bill Green, who played a major role in creating the new code, agreed.
O'Neill's bill accomplishes "exactly the opposite of what the new zoning code was supposed to promote, which is predictability, transparency, ease of getting through L&I and create jobs," Green said.
In other news, Council passed a bill, 16-1, sponsored by Councilman Mark Squilla that allows for a digital billboard on the Electric Factory at 7th and Callowhill streets. A portion of the money generated from the ad would go toward programs at three nearby schools. Councilman Wilson Goode Jr. voting against it. Mayor Nutter is likely to veto it because he says it violates state and federal law.
Council approved a bill, 12-4, sponsored by Councilman David Oh on behalf of the administration that expands the city's ban on skateboarding, biking and rollerblading to include public property. Under the bill, violators would be subject to up to a $1,000 fine or 30 days in jail. Council members Goode, Cindy Bass, Jannie Blackwell and Kenyatta Johnson voted against it. Jim Kenney was not present for the vote.
Council approved a bill sponsored by Councilman Bill Greenlee allowing newsstands to have large digital and wall-wrap advertising. Those newsstands would pay an additional 7 percent tax.