On the day in September that Mayor Nutter announced recommended changes to the Department of Licenses and Inspections, City Council President Darrell L. Clarke presented a plan to create a Department of Planning and Development that would have oversight of L&I among other departments and boards.
Three months later, the competing visions for L&I are moving at drastically different paces. Yet both are causing anxiety to developers and others in the building industry. They especially want to put the brakes on Clarke's plan.
That proposal is scheduled for a Council committee hearing Tuesday. Clarke wants the bill passed in time to put it on the May ballot; his plan would require voters to approve a City Charter change. The deadline for that to happen would be late March or early April.
Meanwhile, Nutter has hardly moved on the 37 recommendations issued in September by a special commission asked to take an in-depth look at the oft-criticized agency. His chief of staff suggested that a decision on the biggest recommendation - splitting L&I into two departments, also requiring a charter change - might not come until a new mayor arrives in 2016.
"It's not clear how [Clarke's plan] would work. . . . We're going to say, 'Let's take more time,' " said Anne Fadullon, president of the Building Industry Association of Philadelphia, who planned to testify Tuesday.
On Nutter's effort, she said: "I would like to see it move in a more meaningful way than it has."
Nutter commissioned a panel, on which Fadullon served, in response to the 2013 building collapse at 22d and Market Streets that killed six people and injured 13. Following a 10-month review, the panel said that L&I was underfunded, has too many responsibilities, and would better operate as two agencies: a Department of Buildings and a Department of Business Compliance.
"That's not something you rush to do," said Everett Gillison, Nutter's chief of staff. "I would not even think that recommendation would be up for discussion. . . . At this time next year, you can ask that."
The administration is expected to tout the eClipse project, L&I's new online system for permits and licenses, and other efforts to streamline development in the city as part of its testimony Tuesday.
The Council president's legislation would create a cabinet-level department to take over functions now handled by seven entities, including L&I, the Planning Commission, the Historical Commission, and the Housing Authority.
Clarke has said his proposal was in the works for more than a year and was unrelated to the special panel's findings.
"The reason we are doing it is because of the concerns raised by the development community, the average person who is trying to get a permit," Clarke said Thursday.
Clarke said most of the developers with whom he had met went along with his plan.
Michael Sklaroff, a lawyer who is chairman of the Development Workshop, an advocacy group for Philadelphia's development community, said that his group agreed with Clarke's general concept of streamlining development in the city, but that details need to be vetted further.
"That resolution is so complicated, we feel it deserves full consideration," Sklaroff said. The Development Workshop suggested Clarke create a working group similar to the one that oversaw the zoning code change.
Sklaroff envisions the working group as focusing on Clarke's proposal but also on other ideas, including the recommendations from Nutter's task force.
"You can't change the charter every year," he said.