READING., Pa. — Reading City Council heard comments Monday from Alan Shuman, president of the Shuman Development Group, questioning a new planning requirement for redevelopment projects in the city.
Shuman said that somewhere in the last year to 18 months, the city administration changed the development process.
“What I’m specifically referring to is that the administration has come up with an unnecessary policy for interior renovations,” Shuman said.
Shuman said the change requires interior renovations of redevelopment projects to be considered as part of a lengthy planning and land-use planning process.
“Before that, in the 30 years that I did development, city zoning dealt with developing a property for change of use,” Shuman said. “Planning was only involved if it related to the exterior layout of the land, such as tearing down walls, demolishing a building or constructing a new building. Adding planning when there are no external changes could cost thousands of dollars and add years to the cost of a project.”
Shuman also said that while the city government made it a requirement, she also said zoning, planning, or administration could waive those requirements.
“It seems arbitrary, and it’s really at the city’s discretion whether projects get derailed or allowed to move forward,” he added.
Shuman said he requested a meeting with the administration, but the city administration did not respond.
Frank Denbowski, the mayor’s chief of staff, said the mayor decided not to meet with Shuman because he is currently involved in an active bidding process for a development project.
Council members said they were unaware of the policy and had never voted on such a requirement.
Denbowski also said he was unfamiliar with the scheduling requirement and likely predated when he joined the administration.
Councilwoman Marcia Goodman-Hinnershitz said the case requires a deeper dive into working with the city administration and attorney.
“We need to be able to see how we need to improve on this, because it’s not good,” Goodman-Hinnershitz said. “We don’t see the development we need in the city, and if we create barriers, then shame on us.”
Council members ordered Denbowski to set up a meeting between Shuman and the mayor as soon as possible.
Mayor Eddie Moran did not attend the Committee of the Whole meeting.
Council said it would follow up with administration and address the issue at a future meeting.