Councilwoman Cindy Bass (8th District) Thursday introduced a bill, and accompanying reforms, to address citywide zoning and development processes after an illegal multi-unit residence house fire took the lives of four Philadelphia residents.
The Registered Community Organization (RCO) Protections Bill establishes guidelines for the zoning process designed to provide community members with more information on neighborhood development.
The proposed legislation: Requires that zoning application notices sent by developers to RCOs and neighboring community members, and RCO public meeting notices be sent by certified mail; Updates the Zoning Notice sign requirements for increased visibility; Extends the “one year rule,” which requires denied zoning applicants to wait one year before refiling, to include dismissed zoning applications and; Requires the City Planning Commission to notify property owners by mail when their property has been rezoned.
“A lot of times, neighbors do not attend public RCO meetings and do not get a chance to witness presentations by hopeful developers simply because they are unaware of the scheduled meeting. Sometimes it’s an oversight, but sometimes it’s a way to intentionally keep neighbors in the dark,” Bass said. “Along with other requirements included in this legislation, extending the ‘one-year rule’ to include dismissed zoning applications will trigger a mailed notification for neighbors, and encourage parties to adhere more closely to certain requirements imposed by the Zoning Board of Adjustment.”
Bass’ bill puts mechanisms in place to better inform community members of development and zoning proceedings and to prevent developers from taking advantage of uninformed neighborhood residents.
In addition to introducing legislation, Bass will send a number of reforms to Mayor Jim Kenney and his administration detailing steps the City can take to avoid tragedies like the recent house fire in North Philadelphia. The reforms include requiring landlords to receive property inspections before being issued rental licenses by the City, charging a fee for those inspections, and requiring that rental license costs vary based on the number of building units. By issuing an inspection fee, the Department of Licenses and Inspections will be able to hire additional inspectors at no additional cost to the City.
“These reforms will be cost neutral to the City and, most importantly, they will save lives,” said Bass.
Councilwoman Bass will also send additional proposals intended to protect the City’s most vulnerable citizens from financial burden. Bass proposes increasing the Senior Citizen Tax Freeze income requirement to extend to more residents, capping the number of times a property’s value can increase for a homeowner participating in the Homestead Exemption, and requiring participants in the 10-year tax abatement to pay the School Tax portion of the Real Estate Tax.
The bill will be heard in the Committee on Rules.
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Councilwoman Cindy Bass represents the 8th Council District, which includes Germantown, Mt. Airy, Nicetown, Tioga, Chestnut Hill, portions of Logan, and West Oak Lane. She is Chair of Council’s committees on Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs and Public Health and Human Services.