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Central Roxborough Civic Association Meeting Minutes

February 4, 2016

Greeting

CRCA President Don Simon called the meeting to order at 7:37 P.M.

Human Relations Commissions re. 400 block of Leverington

Jonah Roll from the Human Relations Commissions, specifically the Community Relations subdivision, addressed those present. Mr. Roll expressed his interest in speaking with residents of the 400 block of Leverington Avenue. He assured the crowd this was not a criminal investigation. His direct phone line is 215-686-7854.

Police Report

5th District Police Community Relation Officer Christopher Jones and Lt. Howard then greeted those present.
  • Residential burglaries are up a staggering 60% in the 5th District in the past year. Most of the burglaries have occurred during the daytime when the occupants were at work. Frequently, the front door is kicked or smashed in. The police encouraged everyone to call 911 if they see anything or anyone out of place. They also advised members of the community to keep their doors locked and praised the effectiveness of security cameras. Lastly, the recommended not leaving boxes for high-end equipment on the curb on trash day, as it can make a home a potential target for thieves.
  • Plainclothes police officers recently arrested a bartender who was selling drugs at Peck Millers bar. Residents were encouraged to file complaints with the Liquor Control Board so that problems can be addressed prior to the bar’s liquor license being renewed.
  • A community member expressed concern about young people blowing through stop signs at Leverington and Silverwood. Similar concerns surround the area near Dobson School.

Large Grant for Gorgas Park

John Boyce (along with Sam, Jacky, and Kathy from Friends of Gorgas Park) proudly announced that they had received a grant for $188,000 (!!!) for restoration and reorientation of the “mud flats” ball field, so called because all rainwater in the park rushes down and empties into a corner of the field, rendering it barely usable. This is a matching grant, and so far Friends of Gorgas has matched $133,000. Later efforts would hopefully involve work on a woodland area and the removal of invasive species. Work is likely to begin in 2017, due to the requirement to use the City’s many-month bidding process.

Josh Cohen in Attendance

Don Simon pointed out Josh Cohen, assistant to Councilman Curtis Jones.

Town Watch

Doug Evans from Town Watch Integrated Services discussed his group’s partnership with police in the 5th District. Their goal is to reduce burglaries and other crime in the area. A patrol watch (citizens with walkie talkies) is a possibility if there is community interest. Mr. Evans can be reached at 215-685-4524 or douglas.evans@phila.gov

Zoning – 302 Leverington (Presentation by owner, Lenny Rustam)

  • The owner of the currently vacant parcel at 302 Leverington, Lenny Rustam, presented about his desire to construct a set of twins on the property. The proposed structure would have dedicated parking in the form of a single-car garage on the bottom floor of each home, facing Leverington. As parking is currently not allowed on that side of Leverington, the proposal would not be removing any existing street parking spaces.
  • Variances are needed for minimum lot width, lot area, and open area. The property is zoned RSA-3, which would allow for a single family detached dwelling in the space. Some of the surrounding properties are zoned RSA-5, which would permit twins like these by right.
  • Mr. Rustam had already met with some of the immediate neighbors and felt there was support for the project. Mr. Rustam intends to occupy one of the units himself and sell the other.
  • Although the height of the proposed structure is within the zoning guidelines, the proposal for a three-story structure with a pilot house seemed out of place to some community members in attendance. The adjacent houses to the lot are two stories tall.
    • Kevin S: “Style and scale off”
    • Mr. Rustam: “No one really builds a 2 story house anymore”
    • CRCA’s Celeste H: other options could be considered
  • Parking was a major point of discussion CRCA members spoke to the desire to eliminate front-facing garages from new construction, as evidenced by the neighborhood conservation overlays recently enacted for Central Roxborough and Ridge Park. 302 Leverington is not located in either of those NCOs. Mr. Rustam felt that locating the parking in the side or rear of the property would involve placing curb cuts on Silverwood Street, thereby taking away 2 street parking spots from the neighbors. Mr. Rustham continually stressed he was trying to act in the best interests of the neighbors. CRCA members noted that frequently such garages get used for storage and cars are parked on the driveway (and often into the sidewalk) and that the homes Mr. Rustam is proposing will likely have more than 1 car. Neighbors in the immediate area said they would support the project whether there was parking in front or in the rear/side.
    • CRCA’s Alex F.: “designing a house around a car
    • Jackie M.: “if you want to stay in this neighborhood, the neighborhood is going away from front parking”
  • Manayunk Neighborhood Council’s John Hunter asked Mr. Rustam what his hardship was. Mr. Rustam responded that he believed the property was mis-zoned and identified several properties that don’t conform to their current zoning designations. Mr. Rustam feels the project he could build by right, a large single family home, wouldn’t fit in with the neighborhood. Many attendees of the meetings challenged this proposition and cited examples of such homes in the area.
  • A neighbor from the immediate area expressed gratitude to Mr. Rustam for pledging to use quality construction materials. Another near-neighbor stated she would rather have the proposed home, which she felt would be attractive to families, built, than have a run-down party house nearby. (CRCA’s Neil M. noted there’s no way of knowing this property won’t be a party house down the road).
  • When asked why not build a large detached single family dwelling with side parking, Mr. Rustam again stated he felt such a building would be out of place with surrounding properties.
  • Mr. Rustam purchased the lot about 3 years ago.
  • Mr. Rustam was unable to provide an estimated price point for the twin he would be selling.
  • A vote was held to support, not oppose, or oppose. The most hands were for to oppose the project. The vote was taken under advisement, as CRCA President Don Simon announced that the CRCA Board and Zoning Committee would also be examining the project.




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