Three important pieces of legislation in both Philly's City Council and the Pennsylvania state legislature might change the face of development in Philly forever: a bill that would aim to prevent Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPPs), a bill that would reconfigure the relationship that Registered Community Organizations have with the zoning process, and a bill that might create a land bank.
1.) Anti-SLAPP Legislation: This bill would make it harder for developers to scare off opposition by threatening costly lawsuits against individuals and community organizations. Formed partly in response to the Old City Civic Association's disbanding of their zoning commission, the bill would help to protect neighborhood advocates from lawsuits which are intended only to drain their resources. This is a state-wide bill introduced by State Senator Larry Farnese, but it would have a huge impact on Philly development if passed.
2.) Reconfiguring the Role of RCOs in the Zoning Process: Current law requires developers to notify registered community organizations in the area where they're planning to build, and to meet with them prior to a zoning board hearing. Although most agree that the law should stay mostly intact, some disagree about which RCOs ought to be notified, and about the requirements for organizations which would like to become RCOs.
3.) Creation of a Land Bank: A Land Bank would consolidate all vacant land owned by the city, and would sell and dispense land to developers and buyers with positive, community-benefiting uses in mind. Though many agree that a land bank has the potential to reduce bureaucracy and return lots of vacant land to positive, productive use, the details of how the land bank will work, and who will control it, are still matters of debate.
· Farnese calls for hearings on SLAPP legislation [Plan Philly]
· Two Keys to Getting the Land Bank Right [Plan Philly]
· Debate over Registered Community Organizations in full bloom [Plan Philly]