Tuesday, August 28, 2012

New Philly Zoning Ordinance: Fewer variances?

One of the objectives of the draftors of the new Philadelphia Zoning Ordinance was to decrease the number of variances granted by its zoning board. As the Philadelphia Inquirer said last Saturday,
Variances are supposed to be an exception to the rules, granted only rarely. Because the previous code was so outmoded, the Zoning Board of Adjustment had gotten in the habit of handing out variances almost at whim, even when a project deviated dramatically from the neighborhood context. The haphazard process invited abuse from powerful gatekeepers, most of them Council members. It often seemed you only needed to make a campaign contribution to obtain a variance in Philadelphia.
I hope to take a look at some of the variance provisions in the new zoning code up there, and contrast them with the ones we have here in Tennessee soon. It is certainly clear that the objectives are similar: variances in both cities should be granted sparingly, and the overall legislative view of city development should be allowed to control. It will certainly be hard to make any informed judgment from here in Nashville about the Philadelphia experience under the new zoning regulations, but I'm sure that will be able to contrast and compare new cases from the courts in each state concerning the experiences in each city.

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