Central Roxborough Civic Association

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Central Roxborough Civic Association Meeting Minutes
January 5, 2017

CRCA President Don Simon welcomed everyone to the meeting.

Central Roxborough Zoning Remapping

Matt Wysong and Andy Maloney from the Philadelphia City Planning Commission gave a presentation on proposed re-mapping of Central Roxborough. This would basically mean changing the zoning classifications of some properties in the affected area to conform to actual or desired use and context. The areas covered are bounded by Gates Street, Henry Avenue, Walnut Lane/Shurs Lane, and Manayunk Avenue. PCPC is seeking community input into the plan prior to presenting it to Councilman Jones who would then introduce it as a bill in City Council. The goals of the Central Roxborough remapping include the prevention of overdevelopment of multi-family units on residential blocks, the protection of large lot houses from sale and subdivision, the prohibition of front-facing garages and the requirement of contextual design conformity, the limitation of commercial uses such as bars and restaurants in residential areas, the removal of obsolete industrial uses to allow for residential re-use with parking, and the correction of any other improperly zoned parcels or areas.

See the proposed zoning maps and other presentation materials for more details.

For a description of the various zoning classifications see the Zoning Codes Quick Reference.

Following the presentation, the gentlemen from the Planning Commission opened the floor to questions.
Q: Will this be able to retroactively address development that is currently under way?
A: No. Anyone with permits can continue to build.

Q: Why isn’t parking required for single family homes?
A: The zoning code covers the entire City of Philadelphia; in more densely populated areas with different mass transit options, it doesn’t make sense to require parking in a rowhome area. In places such as Roxborough, the increased need for parking will be addressed by developers, who recognize that homes are less sellable without provisions for parking.

There was some lively discussion about the effects of curb cuts for private driveways on on-street parking and the realities of car culture in the Upper Northwest section of the City versus planning based on “making it sustainable for people, not cars” through the encouragement of walkability and carbon dioxide reduction.

A meeting attendee asked about the possibility of a moratorium on new development in the neighborhood until public transit can accommodate the increasing density. The short answer is no, that’s not really possible and would present an insurmountable legal obstacle.

When asked about the timeline of the remapping project, Mr. Wysong stated he would like to see it finalized sometime around March 2017.

There was some more philosophical discussions and suggestions bandied about. These included whether PCPC would consider, if its goal truly was to reduce front-facing garages, changing the requirements for RSA-3 rather than rezoning parcels RSA-5 to achieve this end. Those present learned that Philadelphia’s zoning code is based on the Euclidean model of zoning. The goal is for this remapping to provide a base upon which “toppings” – such as a conservation overlay – may be added.

The hope was expressed that the remapping will make it harder for developers to claim a hardship on the basis that a property’s existing zoning designation is wrong or obsolete. It should make it easier for the community, PCPC, and Councilman Jones’ office to align their interests. Josh Cohen from Councilman Jones’ office added that they recognize we have been a couple of steps behind developers who have been able to sneak some undesirable by-right projects through because the zoning map didn’t match the reality of the present time. He stated he was hopeful this would be one way to catch up with the developers who seem to be one step ahead of the community.

Zoning: 365 Green Lane

Property owner Roger Ross is seeking a variance to construction was has been classified as a “front-facing” garage on his property. The front of the property is on Green Lane. The garage front would face Manayunk Avenue and would be accessible through an existing curb cut and driveway on Manayunk Avenue. The garage would be located where there had been a shed demolished by the prior owner. Mr. Ross has already secured approval from the Historic Commission for his plans. The garage would match details from the main house, including 2nd Empire design and a mansard roof. Mr. Ross purchased the 1800s home from a developer who was seeking to demolish it and has put great effort into restoring it.

As per CRCA policy, Mr. Ross left the room. A straw poll was taken, the result being those present wished to support Mr. Ross’ request for a variance for this particular project.

Annual Report

As dictated in the CRCA by-laws, President Don Simon presented an annual report of the organization.

CRCA Activities in 2016: participated in cleanup of Edling Park (owned by CRCA), CRCA owns a community garden on Monastery Avenue; participation in Northwest Coalition of Civics and Crosstown Coalition of Civics; Town & Gown meetings with State Rep. Pam DeLIssio regarding students.

We currently have 64 paid members, 24 new in 2016 (this doesn’t include those who joined tonight).

CRCA reviewed several key development proposals in 2016:
  • 4405 Silverwood: CRCA not opposed
  • 72-unit development on Mitchell Street: this is a by-right project and thus doesn’t go before ZBA
  • Ugly Moose – Wissahickon Neighbors is the coordinating civic
  • 451 Green Lane (proposal for demolition of exiting house and erection of a triplex): CRCA opposed, ZBA denied variance, developer appealed to Common Pleas Court where it now is, CRCA retained an attorney to represent us before the ZBA and in Common Pleas with costs so far of $2,281.
  • 433 Lyceum Avenue – proposal to expand an existing childcare center; CRCA supported
  • church at Ridge & Roxborough – CRCA supported Philadelphia Folk Song society’s desire to convert it into their headquarters.

Other activities including co-hosting a raincheck workshop, hosting reps from Town Watch, a presentation by the Wissahickon Watershed Association, opposing (with RDC, Pam DeLissio, and Curtis Jones) the renewal of the liquor license for a specific Ridge Avenue bar considered a nuisance by many; meeting with the Planning Commission to address proposed regulations that would have eviscerated the protections of the City’s Steep Slope Ordinance.

Election of Officers

Don Simon presented a slate for consideration. The nominees were selected by the Nominating Committee of the CRCA board, and are the same people remaining in their current roles. They are:
  • President: Don Simon
  • Vice President: Lynda Payne
  • Treasurer: Neil Macdonell
  • Corresponding Secretary: Alex Fidrych
  • Recording Secretary: Elizabeth Fischer
  • Board Chair: Ed Hotham

There was a call for other nominations. There being none, the nominations were closed. There were no objections to the slate presented, and the officers were duly re-elected.

Closing Comments

James Calamia of the Roxborough Development Corporation announced that RDC is excited for 2017 and encouraged people to visit their new website at www.roxboroughpa.com for the latest news on events and business in Roxborough.

Don Simon clarified that the Philly Folk Song Society still has an Agreement of Sale for the former church property at Ridge & Roxborough but has signed a 6-month lease for a former restaurant space at Ridge & Dupont.

The meeting was adjourned upon motion.

Copyright CRCA 2018