On Sept. 13, during the first fall Council session, I introduced Bill 180751. The bill, which modifies the zoning code for several types of businesses including day cares, was modeled after a law sponsored by Councilwoman Cherelle Parker and enacted in the Ninth District. Councilwoman Parker's bill applies to certain residential areas, while the intent of my bill is to address both residential and commercial corridors.
I think it's important to provide background and context for this proposal. I introduced the bill after years of meetings and feedback from constituents, business owners, community leaders and groups, and commercial corridor organizations in the Eighth District. They shared concerns about the oversaturation of day cares inadvertently affecting business corridors. Bill 180751 is intended to address their concerns and support vibrant, diverse economic development.
However, I have decided to hold the bill to allow more time for my constituents to review it and offer feedback.
According to a report by the Reinvestment Fund, there are more day-care spaces than children in the Eighth District. Ask anyone who lives, works, and walks these communities, and I think they'll concur.
There are misconceptions about what the bill does and does not do. Bill 180751 does not ban the opening or expansion of day cares; day cares can continue to open in the Eighth District. Additionally, no existing day care would be affected by this legislation.
What this bill does is create a zoning overlay that would require business owners seeking to open new day cares or expand existing centers to go through the same zoning process as required of most Philadelphia businesses. This process includes applying for a zoning variance, talking with neighbors at a community meeting, and getting approval from the Zoning Board of Adjustment. A zoning overlay is an accepted community development tool used by City Council; my bill would also apply to tire shops. The Eighth District has a thriving and growing business sector, and this process has not been, and will not be, a barrier to entry.
The intent of Bill 180751 is to encourage community involvement and give all residents in the district the opportunity to have a voice regarding the development and diversity of business in their neighborhoods. Anyone who is active in his or her neighborhood knows how important community involvement is. I believe community involvement strengthens neighborhoods. Strong, well-informed communities help businesses thrive. I can't imagine a well-intentioned business owner wanting to open a child-care facility, or any other business, without getting to know and hearing from future neighbors.
While I have already had ongoing conversations with neighborhood stakeholders, I am always open to more dialogue. I plan to continue this dialogue and assess whether any amendments should be made to the bill before moving forward.
I believe Bill 180751 is commonsense legislation that advances my goal as a city councilwoman to improve the quality of life for residents and businesses in my district.