PCPC Proposes Design Review Board
At PCPC’s meeting on Tuesday, executive director Alan Greenberger outlined the premise for a new design review committee that is intended to replace the unorganized, ad hoc reviews that currently take place at the ZBA, in City Council, and in community meeting halls throughout the city. The intent is to establish a public forum where a more thoughtful review is overseen by a group of design professionals and to streamline the review process by making the venue clear. “The purpose is to understand the relationship of projects to the public realm and to articulate the level of design excellence about what is good for the city as a whole,” Greenberger said. The proposed seven-member board would have no regulatory authority, but would advise the PCPC on the impacts of major new projects on street life, pedestrian and vehicular access, open space, and light and air, for example. In selected instances, the committee would have approval authority over projects involving council ordinances that include a plan of development, such as proposals for the Commerce Center and casinos.
Major projects are defined as residential, commercial and institutional developments that require a zoning variance or council-sponsored ordinance and are more than 100,000 square feet in size, or projects that exceed current zoning limitations for building height, floor area ratio, and other bulk and area regulations by 200 percent. PCPC cannot require by-right projects to be reviewed by the committee, but will make the opportunity available if community groups and developers agree.
The materials outlining the new committee will be circulated to stakeholders for comments through January. Questions and some opposition are expected. Builders do not want another layer of bureaucracy; designers may be concerned that the committee will lose focus, making reviews too subjective; and community groups may not want to relinquish any power over projects located in their neighborhoods. Comments will be considered as the regulatory language is developed in February. Final approval by the City Administration Board is required.
For more on the design review committee, visit http://www.philly.com/philly/news/local/36286089.html . Video coverage of the PCPC meeting is available at http://www.planphilly.com/node/5340 .