Civic News
Data / Municipal government

ZBABot: web app from Christopher Sawyer gives property data back to neighbors

There's a zoning hearing in your neighborhood next week. Do you know about it? Do you want to know more about the property in question? Or maybe the property owner?

 

There’s a zoning hearing in your neighborhood next week. Do you know about it? Do you want to know more about the property in question? Or maybe the property owner?

In the past, if you wanted any of that information, you’d have to do a bunch of digging in the city’s numerous, clunky online databases. Now, thanks to community activist Christopher Sawyer, you can get it all in one place: ZBABot.

Visit the tool at ph.ly/zbabot.

Sawyer, founder of the blight fighting site Bandit Project and, more recently, a real estate blog with an eye toward tax delinquency, combined hearing data from the Zoning Board of Adjustment (whose calendar is still only available in PDF) and property data from the Office of Property Assessment through Tim Wisniewski‘s PhillyAddress API.

On ZBABot, you can get a quick glance at the ZBA’s workload for the next two weeks and get relevant information on property owners and the properties in question.

For the neighborhood group that’s attending a zoning hearing, it’s a powerful tool. If you’re going to weigh in on a development, it’d be helpful to know if a developer hasn’t paid his real estate taxes on other properties he owns. Neighbors can sign up for alerts for hearings on properties in their zip codes, as well as embed a mini customized ZBABot on their site.

Sawyer has asked the ZBA for data on all the hearings in the past year — he hopes to create a running archive. Currently, you have to do a “deep Google search,” as Sawyer calls it, to find out about past ZBA hearings. He also hopes to be able to provide more data on properties, like code violations, once Licenses and Inspections makes that data public (TP coverage link?).

For more, check out City Paper’s coverage of ZBABot.

Companies: Office of Property Assessment
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