A Pittsburgh primer for stifling development

A Pittsburgh primer for stifling development

Speaking of government overreach, Pittsburgh City Council is considering a proposal that would grant it more power over development.

As the Post-Gazette reports it:

“Under the legislation, council would have the power to review applications for site plans, project development plans and planned developments excluding those under 8,000 square feet and signage.”

More precisely, in its original form, it could give each respective council member the sole, arbitrary and capricious power to scuttle any development it so chose.

But the legislation has raised alarm bells from varying quarters, the city Law Department chief on the list.

It calls the measure “legally suspect” because, among other things, it would give councilors power “beyond their statutorily prescribed role.”

Well, there is that.

The P-G notes an additional red flag is hoisted with the “vague and indefinite” proviso giving council members the power to trigger a project review if that councilor found “significant community concern.”

As the Law Department assessment warns, it would lead to “drastically different regulatory treatment at the sole discretion of a single council member without reference to any defined standard of review.”

Or just perhaps unequal treatment under the law, reasonable people would conclude? And, a developers’ consortium pointed out, a higher propensity for further politicizing a city development process that, we must note, already long has bowed to the extortionist tactics of “stakeholders,” now better known as the “social justice” and “equity” crowd.

All this said, and in an attempt to make the legislation more palatable, there now is a proposed amendment to the original measure that would “require the council as a whole to vote to trigger a review and referral to the planning commission after a colleague reported a significant community concern,” the P-G says.

But even that appears to be not much of a distinction with a difference from the original proposal.

The surest way to stifle future development in Pittsburgh is to make sure the regulatory hurdles are so high and complex – and, again, arbitrary and capricious – that few if any developers will find it worth their investment.

It’s no way to run a city. But it most certainly is a surefire way to run a city into the ground.

Colin McNickle is communications and marketing director at the Allegheny Institute for Public Policy (cmcnickle@alleghenyinstitute.org).