built development, should expire, members of the Central Delaware Advocacy Group (CDAG). They are the group that defends the city’s goals for the Central Delaware Waterfront. CDAGa priority goal.
Change is needed “so that we no longer go through another 30-year process of flipping parcels for profit instead of ever putting a spade in the ground,” CDAG board member Richard Wolk, of Queen Village, said regarding goals established at a recent group retreat.
CDAG Chair Matt Ruben, president of the Northern Liberties Neighbors Association, indicated the goal is achieving a better balance. “Developers need reasonable amounts of time to assemble parcels, design projects, secure financing, and arrange everything that needs to be arranged in the often complex world of development,” he said. “At the same time, it’s not good for anyone, including developers, if parcels remain vacant or dormant or underdeveloped for years, or sometimes even decades.”
There are two ways in which zoning can be changed, and two variations on the lingering zoning theme.
Developers granted a variance through the Zoning Board of Adjustment technically have a year in which to pull building permits before the variance expires. “But right now, through a combination of city and state rules, from when you get your zoning approval to when you have to put your shove in the ground, it can easily be 7 years,” Ruben said. “You can own a huge parcel of land, spend a few thousand or even less and basically purchase the right to sit on it whatever zoning you want for seven years.”
That’s because developers can receive two, three-year extensions. The state law was originally passed in 2010 in response to poor economic conditions that hampered developers’ ability to get financing. The thought behind it was that developers shouldn’t have to go through, and pay for, the process multiple times for factors out of their control. The state law created the extensions; the city requires developers to file an application with L&I.
“It’s not helpful if individuals use development proposals to upgrade the zoning of their properties and then simply sit on them hoping to sell them for a profit because they have upgraded the zoning,” Ruben said. The group doesn’t yet have a specific prescription for these issues, Ruben said. “The first order of business is to impress on city and state officials what the problem is,” he said. From there, discussion could commence about how best to address the situation, he said