Council President Darrell L. Clarke's plan to reshape how the city handles development and planning was postponed Wednesday to appear on the November general election ballot.
The bill would create a cabinet-level Department of Planning and Development to take over most of the functions now handled by seven departments, agencies, and commissions, including the Department of Licenses and Inspections, the Planning Commission, the Historical Commission, and the Philadelphia Housing Authority.
The new schedule for the bill, which must be approved by voters, was good news to some developers and community groups that had argued Clarke was rushing his plan.
"I definitely feel better about it," said Craig Schelter, executive director of the Development Workshop, an advocacy group. He said putting the issue on the November ballot instead of the May primary would allow time "to get the resolution in a form that makes more sense."
Since the bill was introduced in the fall, Clarke has received pushback from Schelter's group and others who had objected to various details - or lack of details - in what is expected to be a large and serious restructuring of city government.
Council's Committee on Law and Government held a hearing Wednesday to discuss Clarke's proposal and other charter-change proposals.
The committee approved amendments, including the date change, but did not move the bill for a full Council vote. Another hearing before the committee will be held later.
It was unclear whether Clarke would make more changes to the bill. The latest version, discussed for nearly two hours Wednesday, does not include L&I under the development and planning umbrella, as originally proposed. Instead, Clarke would create a Division of Development Services, which would take on some of the L&I licensing functions.
"We are moving forward with what we believe is an efficient, user-friendly process," Clarke said after the hearing. "The substance of the bill itself does not seem to be an issue. It has to do more with process and timing. We will work that out."
Clarke said he agreed with what he thought was the main criticism of the current version: giving veto powers to City Council over the cabinet-level appointment for the head of the new department.
That language was struck Wednesday.
Among those testifying were representatives of the Philadelphia Association of Community Development Corporations and the Building Industry Association, both of whom supported Clarke's measure.
"The overall reorganization is critical to creating efficient government processes that will promote the strong economic growth of the City," said Brian Emmons, the industry association's vice president.
The other charter-change proposals - creating a Commission for Women and a Commission on Universal Pre-Kindergarten, and adopting language-access plans by all city agencies - were voted favorably out of committee Wednesday and now go to the full Council for a vote.
This is the last week to approve any charter-change proposals out of committee to make it in time for the May 19 primary ballot.