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Central Roxborough Civic Association Meeting Minutes
November 7, 2019

Zoning: 433 Green Lane (“the chicken case”)

Presentation: Attorney Jennifer Bazydlo with homeowners Dr. Cynthia Balzer and Deirdre Agan
  • Application is for a use variance to permit animal husbandry on this 1200 square foot property on the Northeast corner of Green and Mitchell Streets. Specifically, they seek approval for the keeping of chickens and one pot-bellied pig.
  • There are currently 10 chickens on the property, and a pot-bellied pig (Joey) that was on the property died recently. However, the owners are open to taking in another rescue pig. They consider 10 chickens the maximum they would ever have.
  • The current owners have had chickens and a pig on the property for the past 19 years. They consider them pets or members of the family rather than livestock.
  • There are no roosters, only hens. (Hens can lay eggs without a rooster).
  • The owners have received over 80 petitions in support of their application.
  • Dr. Balzer is a USDA-certified poultry veterinarian.
  • When asked if the chickens would attract vermin, Dr. Balzer responded that in fact they eat mice.
  • After the presenters left, discussion was supportive of the proposal, and a straw poll showed unanimous support.

Zoning: 323 Gates Street

Presentation: Attorney Bill O’Brien with developers Andy Mulson and Steve Olszewski.
  • Application is for dimensional variances for a 18,000 square foot lot with existing home to be subdivided with an additional twin (2 residences) facing Gates Street and 4 townhouses on Wright Street with parking provided for homes.
  • The plan originally presented to CRCA’s zoning committee involved demolishing the existing home and building two twins on Gates Street. There was opposition to demolishing the existing house, and the developers have returned with the proposal to keep the existing house and build only one twin on Gates.
  • The current zoning is RSA-3, meaning that a by-right plan could include demolition of the existing house, and construction of two twins on Gates and two twins on Wright (for a total of 8 properties). Parking is not required under the zoning code.
  • The development on Wright Street would require one curb cut in order for residents of both the Wright and Gates Street homes to access a shared drive. This would not impact on-street parking on Wright Street as there is not currently any parking on that side of the street. Each new house would have a 2-car garage. A parking space for the existing house would be provided and accessed through this shared drive.
  • The refusals are for lot size, which were reduced in order to accommodate the driveway and parking, though not mandated by the zoning code.
  • Neighbors expressed concerns about stormwater management. The type and scope of management plan is based on the amount of earth disturbance and is not taken into account at the zoning board.
  • Neighbors also expressed concerns about the amount of pavement/destruction of green space. A very old maple tree on the property will need to be removed to accommodate the new construction. Another neighbor asked them to remember that ample green space is part of what makes Roxborough so desirable. Another neighbor pointed out that the reason they cannot accommodate large canopy trees on the property ever is because the houses are so close together and lot sizes so small.
  • A neighbor asked if they would consider building a single on Gates rather than a twin. In short, the answer was no.
  • Neighbors expressed concerns about the restoration of the brick street. Mr. Mulson explained that for brick and cobblestone streets, the City’s Streets Department collects any disrupted pavement and is responsible for the restoration.
  • If the variances are granted, the developers plan to begin construction in the spring and finish in the Fall.
  • Some neighbors objected the plans for roof decks on all the new buildings. The developers explained that all the new construction in Manayunk/Roxborough have roof decks and that they are an attractive feature for potential buyers.
  • Another neighbor in the construction/contracting industry vouched for the integrity of the developers and noted that the developers live in this area and have invested in the community.
  • A member of the CRCA Zoning Committee opined that since the developers, after meeting with the zoning committee, accommodated the committee’s request to provide parking while maintain the existing structure, the community should be willing to accommodate the reduced lot sizes, even if not ideal.
  • Some neighbors asked if the proposed 24-foot-wide driveway could be reduced. This is unlikely, as it is a sharp turn from narrow Wright Street and needs to accommodate two-way traffic, as well as potential emergency vehicles.
  • A CRCA board member asked how maintenance, stormwater, and the shared driveway will be handled. The developers responded that it would be through deed restrictions, not a HOA.
  • A community member who is also a realtor stated that development is going to happen, like it or not. There is good development and bad development. He considers this proposal to be good development.
  • After the developers and their attorney left, discussion focused on requests the community would like to make of the developers. The most cited were:
    • Remove the roof decks on the twin on Gates Street. There is ample other outdoor space (decks and porches) and neighbors should be down on the street with their community and not up top.
    • Protect green space and wildlife: Consider planting larger/canopy trees. Consider placing bat boxes on the properties.
  • A straw poll was taken of CRCA members, with 30 supporting the proposal and 6 opposed. A straw poll was taken of Ridge Park Civic members, with 4 supporting and 1 abstention.
  • This case will be heard before the Zoning Board of Adjustment Wednesday November 13.

Zoning Updates

  • 4549 Silverwood Street
    This proposal for 2 houses built into extremely steep slope was denied by the ZBA despite support from the Planning Commission.
  • 283 Gay Street
    This proposal for a triangle-shaped 44-foot “tower” at the intersection of Gay/Fleming/Lyceum was rejected by the ZBA on 11/6/19.
  • 331 Fountain Street
    This proposal for 14-18 houses was defeated at the ZBA on 11/6/19.
Are you seeing a trend? For all these matters, lots of neighbors showed up to voice their opposition and the ZBA listened! Your presence makes a difference!

Upcoming zoning: 270 Dupont Street.

This proposal for demolition of an existing house on the corner of Dupont and Fleming and the construction of two twins (4 houses total) facing Fleming will be heard by the ZBA on 11/20/19 at 2:00 P.M.

CRCA Meeting Minutes

A motion to approve the minutes from the last meeting was passed.

Copyright CRCA 2020