Land Bank Law Passed by Council

Vacant land in South Philadelphia | Image via planphilly.comPhiladelphia City Council unanimously passed a bill to establish a public land bank at their final meeting before the holiday recess, held Dec. 12 at City Hall. As stated in a press release from the Philadelphia Land Bank Alliance by bill sponsor Councilwoman María Quiñones Sánchez, “This Land Bank will finally give Philadelphia the tools we need to reclaim our neighborhoods from blight, abandonment, and tax delinquency, and to get properties back into productive reuse.”

The bill, proposed in March of this year by Sánchez, underwent significant changes in the last few weeks at the prompting of Council President Darrell Clarke. Clarke initially pledged support for Sánchez’s version of the bill, but expressed concerns over the lack of Council oversight to the purchasing and disbursement processes, much to the surprise and dismay to land bank champions. The Council President proposed several significant amendments to the bill after it was voted out of committee and after the period of public testimony had concluded in late October.

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New website to support Philly's land bank bill ups the effort to reclaim vacant land

Every day, Philadelphia’s 40,000 vacant lots drain the City’s resources and tax revenue while fostering crime and blight. Back in February, our cover story looked at the effort to establish a publicly managed land bank that would potentially mitigate these problems. The land bank – an effort of community organizations and City Council – would gather the city’s disparately held vacant lots into a single entity, bringing efficiency and transparency to the process for developing this land and putting it to better community use.

As the land bank bill comes under consideration in City Council, the Philadelphia Association of Community Development, Next Great City and Penn Future have created a new website, PhillyLandBank.org. The site is designed to help Philadelphians track the legislative progress of the proposed land bank and serve as a loudspeaker for community members to declare their support and take action in favor of the legislation. There are also fact sheets, studies and examples of successful land banks and vacant lot redevelopment efforts throughout the country.

Take a look for yourself at phillylandbank.org. And show your support for the bill by sending an email to City Council and the Nutter administration asking them to pass this legislation.

ALEX JACOBS is the Grid intern for spring 2013. He is a junior history major at Haverford College.

Philadelphia offers new incentive to sustainable businesses

Image via phila.govLast week we wrote about Philadelphia businesses making history as the state’s first benefit corporations. The good news continues for the city’s sustainable businesses—applications have officially opened for the Sustainable Business Tax Credit.   

The tax credit—available for 2012 through 2017—is for up to $4,000 against the gross receipts portion of the Business Income and Receipts Tax. Eligible business must either be a certified B Corporation or meet criteria set by the City. B Corporation certification is given by the nonprofit B Lab for rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability and transparency. Since City Council passed the bill in December 2009, the number of certified B Corporations in the country has grown from 240 to almost 700.

Philadelphia was the first city in the country to create financial incentives for sustainable businesses. Eleven other states have since passed simliar legislation. Applications for the tax credit can be downloaded or found at phila.gov/green.

LIZ PACHECO is the managing editor at Grid.

Success! Zoning bill will be amended to protect urban gardens and farms

UPDATE

Last Friday, we wrote about Bill 120917 and the threat it poses to urban agriculture in Philadelphia. Good news! Yesterday, Councilman Brian O’Neill announced that on January 24 he will amend Bill 120917 to restore community gardens and market- or community-supported farms as a matter of right, as was originally allowed in the new zoning code. All are invited to attend City Council Chambers at 10 a.m. on January 24 to support this amendment. For more information, visit the Campaign for Healthier Foods and Green Spaces.