Plan Philly: City Council Making Progress on Sign Issue

Council members spoke among themselves before the hearing.

City Council’s Committee on Rules held a public hearing yesterday on an ordinance amending sections of Philadelphia’s zoning code that deal with sign controls.

Last fall, the Zoning Code Commission purposely kept the sign regulations bill out of the new zoning code proposal because it knew it would be a particularly contentious issue. Now, after a couple of revisions, a much-improved bill has been placed before the Committee on Rules for further amendment.

Council members spoke among themselves before the hearing.

The Rules Committee helped put at least some of the controversy to rest by approving language changes to the section of the zoning code addressing accessory signs. Accessory signs are outside signs at the location of the business.

The council member’s decision to approve the accessory sign portion of the bill was proceeded by testimony from developers who both recalled the bureaucratic confusion of the old code and praised the new amendments.

“With an interest in being a business friendly city—with an interest in making the process easier to achieve and therefore increasing the level of compliance of small businesses, I would urge you to pass the accessory portion of this bill,” Henry Pyatt of the New Kensington Community Development Corp. said.

However, council members were quick to point out that they would not addressing the most debated subject in sign regulation, non-accessory signs. This is major sticking point because the non-accessory sign category encompasses billboards.

At the beginning of his testimony, Deputy Mayor for Economic Development, Alan Greenberger, suggested that references to non-accessory signs be “stripped” out of ordinance, “so that the bill can be sent through committee.”

Councilman Bill Greenlee agreed with Greenberger’s sentiment, calling the accessory sign section “the easy part.” Greenlee along with the rest of the Rules Committee will reassemble to deal with the billboard issue in December and hope to have the bill passed by January.


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