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Attention Philadelphians: You Are Losing Your Voice

Loss of Taxpayer Standing

In August 2009, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court dealt Philadelphians a severe blow by ruling that taxpayers and community organizations no longer have“standing”or the right to appeal decisions made by the Zoning Board of Adjustments unless the taxpayer is detrimentally harmed and can show a direct and immediate interest.

Prior to this ruling community organizations and citizens were permitted to participate in Zoning Board hearings and appeal unjustified decisions.  This right is critical since Zoning Board hearings occur during business hours (9-5), and community groups could represent members and property owners who were unable to attend due to work commitments. While waiting for state legislators to restore standing through a legislative amendment, community groups should be prepared to defend their standing to participate in zoning board hearings. For more information, contact SCRUB.

Proposed Zoning Code Revisions Limit Public Review and Legal Processess in Land Use Decisions

This is a critical time for the public to pay attention to the newly released  Draft Recommendations for a Revised Zoning Code. Four meetings have been scheduled to get feedback from the public.  The process is moving at top speed and many residents have not had a chance to even read the proposed changes to the code.

Parkland is in Jeopardy

When the Philadelphia Home Rule Charter was amended last November to dissolve the FairmountPark Commission, it was replaced with an advisory board which will work under the direction of a newly appointed Commissioner of  Parks and Recreation.  Protecting the sale, lease or gifting of dedicated parkland to private interests for non-recreational use is a major concern for many Philadelphians. You have a chance to share these concerns with the new Commissioner Michael Di Beraditis during his visits to neighborhoods throughout the city where he plans to share the new vision for parks and recreation. Click here for information on dates and meeting places.

What do all of these changes mean and more importantly how do they affect you?

Philadelphia has the potential to become a vastly different place. Everything from the look, size, location of homes and businesses, commercial or industrial uses permitted in your neighborhood, population density, available parking, procedural time and expense associated with improving and reinvesting in existing buildings, notice and input regarding project developments and more is open for discussion. Since the Fairmount Park Commission has been dissolved, even the quantity and quality of public parkland is at issue.The loss of taxpayer standing in Philadelphia zoning matters could means more legal hurdles for community groups who choose to appeal a zoning decision.

Voice your opinion

Public input on policies affecting our public spaces are being sought by the Zoning Code Commission and the Department of Parks and Recreation Commissioner. Public hearings and community meetings are scheduled throughout the city. Links to the dates and locations are available on our website. Plan to attend these meetings to voice your concerns and suggestions; be a voice that helps guide the reshaping of our city.

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Bee ad for Inquirer building dropped

September 15, 2007
Philadelphia Inquirer


Brian Tierney, CEO of the newspaper, took the wings off the plan. Critics called it garish. By Robert Moran Inquirer Staff Writer Stung by community opposition, a pun-inspired Brian Tierney, chief of the company that owns The Inquirer and the Philadelphia Daily News, said yesterday that he would no longer seek city permission to allow the placement of a giant inflatable bee and banners on the Inquirer and Daily News Building to advertise a Jerry Seinfeld movie.

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1200 Byberry — 713 A.2d 135 (Pa. Cmwlth. 1998)

Scenic Philadelphia v. Zoning Board of Adjustment of the City of Philadelphia, The City of Philadelphia and Revere National Corporation

In this case, the Court rejected Applicant’s argument that it suffered undue hardship because its property was not well-suited for industrial use by noting alternative industrial uses for the property.

To reach this goal it examined the elements that a party seeking a variance must prove: (1) that unnecessary hardship will result if the variance is denied, and that the hardship must be unique or peculiar to the property as distinguished from a hardship arising from the impact of zoning regulations on an entire district, and (2) that the proposed use will not be contrary to the public interest. Relying on these rules, it held that a property that was zone for industrial use did not suffer undue hardship when there were economically viable uses for the property.

Continue reading 1200 Byberry — 713 A.2d 135 (Pa. Cmwlth. 1998)

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Billboard Settlement Agreement

In August 2006, Mayor Street, City Solicitor Diaz and representatives of the billboard industry announced that they reached an agreement to settle a lawsuit brought by the billboard industry. The Billboard Settlement Agreement legalized hundreds of unpermitted billboards, reduced licensing fees for outdoor advertisers, and shut down community-based efforts to removed non-conforming and illegal signs. SCRUB has filed a lawsuit on behalf of plaintiffs who have been negatively affected.

Some of the provisions of Billboard Consent Agreement include:

  • Legalizing previously un-permitted and illegal billboards with no regard for zoning, prohibited areas, spacing requirements, or traffic safety concerns.
  • Removing the requirement for safety inspections of billboard structures, despite recent examples of billboards that have collapsed in the region.
  • Reducing the proposed fee structure $650 to a level ($50) that will not allow for effective oversight by the Department of Licenses and Inspections.
  • Stripping the legal rights of community groups and residents to challenge the legalization of illegal billboards.
  • Legalizing billboards despite permit containing a different address or is of a greater size and height.

How will it affect your neighborhood?

  • Un-permitted, illegal or unsafe billboards were granted a legal right to remain, undermining revitalization or beautification efforts.
  • The Agreement has allowed billboard owners to rebuild billboards located in prohibited areas.  I
  • Over 27 million dollars in billboard fines and 9,000 000 in annual license fees remain uncollected as a result of this Agreement.
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Scenic Philadelphia was founded in 1990 as a grassroots coalition to stop the proliferation of billboards in Philadelphia. Victory came in 1991, when Philadelphia City Council unanimously passed two comprehensive sign-control ordinances. Passage of this legislation was attributed to the coalition’s success in mounting an extensive media campaign to educate and activate community leaders citywide.