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Update: Opportunities to Weigh in on Legislation that Would Exempt Developer from Logging Restriction

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Members of the public will have two chances to weigh in on legislation proposed by council member Curtis Jones to exempt the Cobbs Creek golf course from restrictions on cutting trees on steep slopes, rules meant to protect water quality and prevent erosion.

On December 6th at 10am, the City Council Rules Committee will meet. The agenda for the meeting contains instructions on how to give public comment and can be downloaded here.

On December 8th at 1pm the Philadelphia City Planning Commission will meet via Zoom (click here) and the passcode is: 777388. Their agenda  can be accessed here.

So far, over 100 acres of trees were cleared by the West Conshohocken-based foundation controlled by the billionaire Maguire family after the City signed a 70-year (including extensions) lease for $1 with the foundation at the end of 2021.

The City’s zoning code prohibits clearing trees on steep slopes without getting a zoning variance from the City’s Zoning Board of Adjustment. At the end of 2021 the foundation applied for and was denied a permit to clear trees on steep slopes in the golf course, and it then applied for the variance that would permit it to complete its planned logging. In March the foundation suspended its attempt to win that variance.

Jones’s legislation makes it unnecessary for the foundation to seek the variance. It also avoids any public involvement in the decision, which would have been part of the process if it had gone before the Zoning Board of Adjustment. Although the legislation still has to be passed by City Council, Philadelphia’s informal but ironclad rule of councilmanic prerogative ensures that district councilmembers get what they want in local zoning decisions. This system also opens the door for public corruption, with developers incentivized to make campaign contributions to councilmembers to permit development in their districts.

As Grid has reported, Jones received a total of $7,000 from people and firms connected with the Cobbs Creek Foundation as the initial land-clearing permits were under consideration by the City’s Department of Licenses and Inspections, including an illegal donation from the foundation. The foundation claimed that donation was an error…after Grid reported it.

City Council member Curtis Jones.

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