Planning is always the key to success, and without a plan our city's success will forever remain out of reach. In Philadelphia, the lack of a master plan, plus addendums and overlays to the zoning code, has created a system in which the rules are unclear and unpredictable. Lack of uniformity has created hesitation and anxiety among potential developers and hampered additional growth and development within the city. Variances are required in almost every circumstance, and hiring an expediter is considered the best way to navigate this complicated process; that's wrong.
In late 2006, legislation was introduced in Philadelphia City Council to create a Zoning Reform Commission. As mayor, I will work to ensure that the process of zoning reform occurs quickly and correctly.
Communities should be actively engaged at an earlier stage, specifically planning, and work with the city departments to create a comprehensive vision for their neighborhood. If a neighborhood is involved from the beginning, it will embrace new development and make its new neighbors part of its community. The zoning code should then reinforce that vision. At present, we have a zoning code that has led to ad hoc planning, on a block-by-block basis.
As mayor, I will empower neighborhoods to let their voices be heard in the planning process and create a fair and predictable set of zoning rules. These rules will reinforce the planning process. Variances should be the exception, not the rule. By working to create a system that empowers city departments and neighborhoods to plan in advance, we can streamline internal processes and eliminate the need for expediters.