City Council votes to override veto for the first time since Kenney took office

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Philadelphia City Council Thursday voted to override the first veto of Mayor Jim Kenney’s five years in office, clearing the way for Society Hill to get special zoning regulations, including a height limit, expanded parking requirements, sign restrictions and other rules tailored to the historic and affluent area.

Kenney said he was disappointed.

“The legislation as passed does not support our efforts to maintain housing affordability, historic preservation, or responsible development in Society Hill and will impact these efforts citywide,” the mayor said in an emailed statement. “If we’re going to be an inclusive and equitable City, every neighborhood needs to live up to these values.”

The 13-4 vote was a victory for the bill’s sponsor, Mark Squilla, who assured his colleagues that the bill merely guaranteed community involvement in new development.

“It doesn’t stop development,” he said. “It requires a variance to build above whatever those restrictions are. That enables the community to have a voice in that development and to be a part of the process.”

The override was virtually assured by the tradition of “councilmanic prerogative,” which gives district council members wide latitude on bills for their districts, even if they run counter to principles professed by their colleagues.

The mayor and other critics say the bill’s height limit and parking requirements work against equitable development and climate change, but affordable housing champion Maria Quinones Sanchez voted to override, as did environmental defender Kathy Gilmore Richardson.

Council also passed a ban on fireworks at its weekly meeting.

The bill was prompted by the boom in pyrotechnics that began shaking residents across the city during the pandemic shutdown.

The bill bans fireworks after 9 p.m., except on federal holidays, and requires they be used in full compliance with the fire code.

"While state law supersedes the city on the legalization of consumer fireworks, we can and should regulate late night use," said sponsor David Oh. "This has become a serious quality of life issue for the residents of Philadelphia.”

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