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Central Roxborough Civic Association Meeting Minutes
August 3, 2017

Presentation by State Representative Pam DeLissio

Representative DeLissio presented an update on the legislature in Harrisburg. The state budget is still unfinished. With a $2 billion shortfall, the senate passed a bill to make ends meet but the house is not meeting any time soon. The bill was somewhat of a mixed bag – it included a Marcellus Shale tax but granted some regulatory relief to extractors with potentially negative environmental impacts. There was discussion of expanding gaming in Pennsylvania but no concrete specifics.

Zoning:6139 Ridge Avenue (Petite Fete) – proposed event venue/banquet hall for under 50 people requiring a special exception

Business owner Katrina Gilbert presented on her intention to open a second location of her event venue business, Petite Fete. Her original location is on Baltimore Avenue is southwest Philadelphia. Gilbert described her concept as a luxury but cost effective space for showers, cocktail events, corporate meetings, and such. There would be a full kitchen but people could also bring outside catered food and alcohol. Parking for event attendees would be in the community parking lot in the rear of the property (formerly Sole II Soul restaurant). Ms. Gilbert stated that she had already secured trash management and landscaping contracts for the property. She hopes to later obtain permission to pave an exterior portion of the property for outdoor events.

When asked about the guest capacity of the venue, Ms. Gilbert stated there would be a 50 person max occupancy inside and possibly 50 outside for a total of 100. The sound system would also expand to the outside. When asked how the proposed outdoor seating (which is not being sought with the special exception at issue) would affect nearby residents, Ms. Gilbert asserted that any intrusion would be minimal, as most her events occur during the daytime on weekends. Outside events would conclude by 8:00 P.M. and indoor events would end by 1:00 A.M. at the latest. The interior of the building has been soundproofed so that noise from the sound system/DJ would not affect neighbors. A CRCA member asked Ms. Gilbert to consider using eco-conscious materials when she paves outside to keep with Roxborough’s greening initiatives.

When asked if her original location had ever received any fines, complaints, or L&I violations, Ms. Gilbert stated there had been none. A subsequent review of the L&I website by an attendee revealed this to be false.

Ms. Gilbert has applied for expedited zoning review and hopes to open by the end of the month. The Zoning Board of Adjustment Hearing date is August 16.

Zoning: 6168 Ridge Avenue

This is a proposal for sit-down restaurant and brewery requiring 3 variances. 1) Use – the property is zoned CMX2.5 which allows for commercial use on the bottom floor and residential above, but the proposed brewery component constitutes “limited industrial” use which is prohibited in CMX2.5; 2) the construction of an addition onto the back of the building for brewing equipment would result in the building occupying more than 90% of the total lot, which is prohibited under the zoning code (75% max); and 3) the construction of a rear addition would not be in compliance with rear yard dimensional requirements under the zoning code (would only have a 6’ setback where 12’ required).
  • James Calamia, Executive Director of the Roxborough Development Corporation introduced the project and his organization. The RDC was founded in 1992 with a mission to provide high quality shopping, dining and entertainment experiences in the neighborhood with Ridge Avenue as a commercial and community center of activity. Through the Asset Enhancement Program, RDC recruits funds to entice business to Ridge Avenue, such as the Foodery and the Philadelphia Folk Song Society (who will be moving into the old Crossroads/Read & Eat location). In 2015, RDC undertook a “2020 Initiative” to rethink priorities for Ridge Avenue and conducted a large survey among residents to get community input. Near the top of suggestions from residents was a brewpub restaurant. RDC wants to make a statement with this property and hopes it will serve as a catalyst to draw other businesses onto the Ridge.
  • Attorneys Joseph Strampello and his associate Sarah from the Mattioni Law Firm then presented on the legal issues related to the variances and answered questions about operations. Air conditioning and venting equipment would be located on the top of the rear addition. Spent grains from the brewing process would hopefully be donated to local farmers, perhaps Saul High School. The renderings displayed at the meeting showed outdoor seating in adjacent Pocket Park (which was recently purchased by RDC from the City of Philadelphia). Such outdoor seating would require additional approvals not being sought at this time, but it is part of the overall concept.
  • Several residents expressed concern upon hearing the Pocket Park was owned by RDC, but discussion on that matter was held for another time.
  • While the focus of the brewpub’s alcohol selections would naturally be on its own beers, there is a new liquor license that allows Pennsylvania manufacturers to sell other made-in-PA spirits (not just beer).
  • The occupancy of the interior of the restaurant would be under 50 people (likely 35 dining seats + bar stool seating).

Zoning Discussion

Presenters were then asked to leave so that community discussion could ensue. A straw vote (CRCA’s board will make the final recommendation to the Zoning Board) was taken to gauge community support and will be included in CRCA’s report to the ZBA on both matters.
  • As to 6168 Ridge Avenue (brewery & restaurant): 1 person voted to oppose the project, 3 people voted to not oppose, and 21 people voted to support the project.
  • As to 6139 Ridge Avenue (event venue/banquet hall): 6 people voted to oppose the project, 13 people voted to not oppose the projected with provisos, and 3 people voted to support the project with provisos. The proposed provisos are: 1) the ZBA should approve the request for a special exception only if there is evidence of a specific plan for trash management at the property; and 2) indoor entertainment should concluded by midnight on weekends and 10:00 P.M. all other nights.

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