Amid arguments over the new zoning code’s provision on Registered Community Organizations over the past few years, the Philadelphia City Planning Commission vowed to stay out of neighborhood power struggles by treating equally all qualified RCOs whose boundaries happen to overlap. But now, just a few weeks after PCPC released its RCO map, some civic organizations are asking the Commission to tighten those qualifications and “rationalize” the map [...]
Jeff Hornstein, who signed the letter as president of Queen Village Neighbors Association, said that some of the resulting Local RCO boundaries represent an overreach. The associations’ letter pointed out that the Center City District, listed as a Local RCO, claims Girard to Tasker and the Schuylkill to the Delaware rivers as its boundaries, overlapping dozens of smaller organizations. On a smaller scale, Hornstein said, groups with less history of working on zoning issues with developers have been given the same standing as more established neighborhood associations.
I guess establishing RCOs was politically necessary for passing the new zoning ordinance. Under the old ordinance, NIMBY groups got used to wielding a lot of power by using variances as veto points to alter or scotch development proposals, so they’ve come to expect to have a role in the approval process for new buildings. The RCO system would seem to go a long way to defang NIMBY veto power over development, but I would’ve gone even further in the direction of allowing property owners to basically do whatever they want without having to consult with people who don’t actually own the land in question. If NIMBY groups want to stop a building from going up, or force alterations to a building proposal, I think they should have to compensate the landowner fair market value via Citizinvestor or something.
(Thanks: Jared Brey)