DEPARTMENT OF CITY PLANNING

RCO FAQs

Q: Can there be more than one RCO in a geographic area?

A: Yes, the Ordinance permits two or more organizations to operate within the same geography. In the situations where there are two or more RCOs for a geography, the Neighborhood Planner will take a more active role in convening the Development Activities Meeting and facilitating the neighborhood planning process. Specifically related to the required Development Activities Meeting, the Department of City Planning will schedule the public meeting to discuss the applicant’s proposal with the applicable RCOs (at least thirty (30) days prior to the first public hearing). In relation to the development of a Neighborhood Plan, each RCO will be a part of the core team and have the ability to work cooperatively with one another to develop a Neighborhood Plan.

 

Q: What if two RCOs are in the same area and have different opinions? Which perspective will prevail?

A:  City Planning staff will provide a staff report to the Board and/or Commission outlining the public engagement efforts and Development Activities Meeting summary for matters that meet the threshold requirements listed in the Ordinance (§ 178E.08(c)). Additionally, RCOs can submit letters expressing their position to the Board and/or Commission, and provide testimony if they so choose. The Board and/or Commission will weigh these factors in rendering a decision or recommendation.  

 

Q: Is a group without RCO status also seen as a voice of the community by the City?

A:  Yes, the City of Pittsburgh values the contributions that community organizations bring to our city and holds each in equal regard. 

 

Q: Will the city start a community group and push out established groups?

A:  No.

 

Q: Will groups with RCO status be favored over non-RCO groups?

A:  The City of Pittsburgh works to improve cooperation between the various agencies and departments of the City and community organizations representing a geographic area or field of interest by improving the flow of information between these groups and the City, enabling such organizations to participate in civic affairs, and enhancing the livability and character of the City and its neighborhoods. The legislation lays out the requirements for City recognition of community organizations and details the associated responsibilities and benefits. RCOs will receive certain benefits, not favoritism, for meeting requirements related to transparency and public engagement.

 

Q: What if a group chooses not to become an RCO?

A:  The current process would not change for that group relative to development.

 

Q: If a neighborhood organization does not get registered, does it have standing before the ZBA, Planning Commission, City Council, etc.?

A:  The current process would not change for that group relative to development. Individual community members and/or organizations are entitled to testify and/or to send letters to the Boards and Commissions regardless of RCO status.

 

Q: What City Departments in the future will end up using this legislation?  

A:  Other City departments may incorporate RCOs into their programs and processes. RCOs are referenced in the Pittsburgh Land Bank’s Policies and Procedures document regarding pre-acquisition considerations of land management. The RCO Ordinance is within the Administrative Title of the City of Pittsburgh Code so that it can used citywide for various programs. In addition to outlining RCO requirements and benefits, the legislation explicitly states that “each city department shall strive to utilize best public engagement practices to educate, engage, and receive input from the public at a level that is consistent with the scope of impact of a proposal or project.” 

 

Q: What information would be required to be posted on a website? (i.e. which meeting agendas, decisions, and minutes – all board meetings? Biannual open public meetings? All meeting agendas, decisions, and minutes? Are closed meetings permitted?)

A:  The Agendas, Decisions, and Minutes of the meetings, whether Board meetings and/or public meetings. Agendas, Decisions, and Minutes of Executive Sessions and personnel matters are exempt from the posting requirement.

 

Q: Can a Facebook page serve as a website?  

A: Yes. The Facebook page should be organized for easy navigation to the Agendas, Decisions, and Minutes.

 

Q: One requirement is that a community group is “properly registered as a 501(c)3 nonprofit corporation in good standing with the state of Pennsylvania, or obtained fiscal sponsorship with a 501(c)3 nonprofit corporation in good standing with the state of Pennsylvania via a Memorandum of Understanding.”  What kind of affiliation is required if a group is not a 501(c)3? What does it mean to have a Memorandum of Understanding?

A:  One of the standout functions of 501(c)3 status is fiscal transparency. For groups that do not have 501(c)3 status, the kind of affiliation required is a fiscal sponsorship through a Memorandum of Understanding with a 501(c)3. This is an arrangement in which one entity agrees to accept and manage funds for another. The union between these two organizations is typically described in a Memorandum of Understanding. This agreement establishes the purpose; describes the agreed-upon roles and responsibilities of each organization; identifies the staff responsible for specific responsibilities; describes the benefits and resources each partner receives and contributes; and identifies the timeframe.

 

Q: Groups expressed concern that they may have to re-write bylaws to comply – is this true?

A:  Some groups may have to update their bylaws. The City of Pittsburgh shares templates to assist groups that may need to update or re-write organizational documents.

 

Q: Can an RCO also be a nonprofit developer?

 

A:  Yes, if they also serve as an institution for the community and meet the requirements to become an RCO.

 

Q: § 178E.03(e) requires identifying a group's geographic area.  Some communities represent overlapped areas, how are groups supposed to specify their geography?

A:  Groups should identify their boundaries through a legal description or other description using street names. The boundaries need to be identified either in approved bylaws or passed by another action of the organization. 

 

Q: What notice requirements are necessary from the developer to the community group (i.e. can a meeting be announced the day before it’s scheduled)? Does the developer get to pick whatever day they want without input from community groups?

 

A:  If there is only one RCO in a neighborhood/geographic area, then the applicant is required to coordinate with the RCO to schedule a time, date, and place of the public meeting. That meeting must take place at least 30 days prior to the public hearing.

 

Q: Will the neighborhood/RCO be required to go through a formal process each time there’s newly proposed development?

 

A:  If the proposal meets the public hearing requirement and threshold requirements listed in the Ordinance (§ 178E.08(c)), then a Development Activities Meeting is required.

 

Q: Is the applicable RCO required to meet with the applicant?

A:  The Ordinance requires the applicant to coordinate with the RCO and participate in a Development Activities Meeting. The meeting would have to take place. The RCO is not required to show up or provide a letter of support/opposition; however, the RCO would have to coordinate with the applicant to schedule a time, date, and location of a public meeting and use their Communication Strategy to notify residents, property owners, business owners, and other stakeholders.

 

Q: Groups have heard that proposed development projects will be evaluated based upon their conformity to the community plan (once a plan is adopted).  Is this true?

A:  Yes, if a neighborhood plan is adopted, the development will be evaluated on that basis.

 

Q: How does the Department of City Planning deal with policies related to RCO’s?

A: The Department of City Planning will publish our Policies related to Registered Community Organizations on the RCO Program website.

 

Q: Why are 30 days required between the Development Activities Meeting and the public hearing?

A:  The 30-day rule provides time to the applicable RCO(s) Board(s) to meet and determine their recommendation to the Board/Commission(s).

 

Many of these questions came from Q&A meetings held by the Pittsburgh Community Reinvestment Group in January 2018. If you have further questions about the program, please contact Stephanie Joy Everett at stephaniejoy.everett@pittsburghpa.gov or 412-255-2256.