Brian O’Neill Wants to Expand Council’s Near-Absolute Power Over Development

CHICKEN KILLER: Councilman Brian O'Neill wants you to buy your eggs at the Acme. (Official City Council photo.)

Councilman Brian O’Neill represents the 10th District in Northeast Philly. | Photo courtesy of Philadelphia City Council

Editor’s Note: This article has been updated with a response from Councilman Brian O’Neill.

Councilmanic prerogative is a tradition that gives City Council members a huge amount of control over development in the districts they represent. When a lawmaker wants to make a zoning change in his district, for example, the other 16 members will vote along with him as a matter of course. But it’s always been a gentleman’s agreement, not written down in city law.

It’s been talked about a lot lately. Earlier this month, a federal jury decided that Councilmanic prerogative is a power that’s ripe for abuse. Councilman Kenyatta Johnson, who was on the losing end of that verdict, worried that the decision could erode Council members’ ability to watch out for their constituents.

And now, a Council member appears to be writing the policy down. Last week, Councilman Brian O’Neill introduced a bill that would put prerogative on the books. The bill adjusts one of the more obscure parts of the zoning code: the preliminary review of plat adjustments. Those are the realignments of property lines and the subdividing of lots. Anytime you want to split one lot into two or combine three lots into one, you need to get it approved by the city. Read more »

NIMBY Cries Stall Proposed Rehabilitation Center in Haddonfield

Image via Google Street View

Image via Google Street View

“Where others see problems, O’Neill sees potential,” reads the O’Neill Properties Group mission statement. That attitude must be coming in handy for developer Brian O’Neill right about now. Per the Inquirer, Haddonfielders are putting up staunch “Not In My Back Yard” opposition to his plans of putting a rehab center at the site of the former Bancroft School.

Why the aversion to the parochial school savior’s project? For one thing, the building would be across from Haddonfield Memorial High School and just two blocks the local elementary school. This proximity has not sat well with parents and other locals:  “I cannot imagine a worse site than right next to a high school,” former Mayor Jack Tarditi was quoted as saying last week.

Read more »

A Full and Thorough Accounting of Allan Domb’s GPAR Installation

allan domb

Photo of Allan Domb in the lobby of Parc Rittenhouse by Laura Kicey

Last night at Parc almost every real estate agent in Philadelphia, eight City Council members (Jannie Blackwell, Brian O’Neill, Jim Kenney, Mark Squilla, Cindy Bass, Kenyatta Johnson, Maria Quiñones-Sanchez, and Council prez Darrell Clarke), and a number of important civic leaders gathered to celebrate developer/realtor Allan Domb on the occasion of his inauguration as 89th president of the Greater Philadelphia Association of Realtors (GPAR).

The crowd was well-heeled in that brokerish way: the young men made ample use of hair gel and the young women wore LBDs and heels. Everyone looked very polished and coiffed, though the Council members tend to have their own style. Jim Kenney was wearing a tweed jacket with patches on the elbows, and looked the entire time like he was about to run off either to teach a class on American poetry or join friends for a few rounds of Guinness.

Read more »