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Central Roxborough Civic Association Meeting Minutes
May 7, 2016

CRCA President Don Simon called the meeting to order.

Announcements and Updates

6174 Ridge Avenue

HighPointe Church’s appeal to the ZBA for variances and a special exception to provided for a religious assembly/coffeehouse/performance venue was approved by the ZBA with a proviso that the zoning will revert back when HighPointe’s lease ends in five years. If in five years HighPointe wants to continue using the space as allowed under the variances and special exception, they will need to present to CRCA and go through the ZBA appeal process again.

302 Leverington

The owner of this property who seeks to build twin houses on a vacant lot zoned has a hearing date at ZBA for June 8th at 4:00 P.M. The owner had previously presented at a CRCA general meeting and met with CRCA’s Zoning Committee, who recommend that he modify his plans to build a by-right single-family detached home with parking in the rear. Nevertheless, the owner intends to present his original plan for twins with front-facing garages to the ZBA at his hearing date. Both CRCA and Manayunk Neighborhood Council oppose the plan.

Update from Pam DeLissio

Don Simon read from a letter from State Representative Pam DeLissio.
  • Her next Town Hall Meeting is May 12th at 7:00 P.M. at Cathedral Village, featuring special guest Pennsylvania Secretary of Aging Teresa Osborne.
  • Rep. DeLissio is working on bipartisan legislation for comprehensive redistricting reform to put an end to gerrymandering.

Night Market

James Calamia, Director of the Roxborough Development Corporation, addressed the Night Market coming to Roxborough on May 12 from 6:00 P.M. to 10:00 P.M. The Night Market is a premier street food event brought about by the Food Trust. There will be 84 food vendors on Ridge Avenue between Fountain Street and Roxborough Avenue. That part of Ridge will be shut down from 3:00 P.M. until midnight on Thursday, May 12, and bus route will be affected. Each year the Food Trust puts on 4 Night Markets throughout Philadelphia, and Roxborough is honored to be kicking off the 2016 series. There will be parking provided at the Ivy Ridge Shopping Center, with shuttles running during the Market from the parking lot to Fountain Street. There will also be a shuttle from Wissahickon to Roxborough Avenue.

CRCA Procedures

Don Simon reiterated recent changes to CRCA procedures. Following their presentations and questions from the community, variance applicants will be asked to leave the meeting and there will be further discussion about the proposals. A straw poll will then be taken. CRCA’s final decision on whether to support, oppose, or not oppose a project is ultimately made by the governing CRCA Board Members, taking the opinions of the community and CRCA’s Zoning Committee under advisement.

Zoning Presentations

Zoning – 5711 Ridge Avenue

Application before ZBA for a special exception for a take-out restaurant (Domino’s). Presenter: Dennis Lee, Expediter for Owner. Also present was landowner Harvey Russakoff, who owns the adjacent Award Cleaners, which has been rebuilt and reopened following a devastating fire last year. Mr. Lee explained that because the cleaners were closed for 19 months after the fire, Mr. Russakoff wished to sub-divide the property when he rebuilt in order to bring in additional revenue to offset losses incurred from being closed for so long.

Domino’s is interested in leasing the space. Franchisee Salim Joarder was also present at the meeting. There would be no dining inside at 5711 Ridge, just takeout and delivery, and no drive-thru. There are six parking spaces in the front and rear of the building, some of which would be used for delivery vehicles. Signage will comply with the requirements of the Ridge Avenue overlay. The lease would be for 5 years with an option after 5 years. Product supply occurs late at night, twice a week. An owner of a very close business expressed concern about trash. The representatives for the project insist that there will be daily cleaning inside and out of the building, that they will employ state of the art trash receptacles, and pointed out that rodent management is not typically an issue with new construction.

Zoning – 492 Roxborough Avenue

Application before ZBA for a variance for a night club and relief from parking space requirements (Philadelphia Folk Song Society).

This proposal regards taking an empty church located on Roxborough and Ridge Avenues and using it as a performance space, office space, and archive for the Philadelphia Folk Song Society. In its most recent incarnation, the church was used as an MRI center. A representative for the Folk Song Society, which is currently located in Mount Airy, explained that they would like to use the space as a cultural recourse where there would be concerts, classes and after-school programs. In addition to the church, there is a single-family detached structure on the property which the Folk Song Society would like to continue to use as residential rental space in order to garner income. There are currently 7-8 parking spaces in the rear of the property, less than required by the Zoning Code. The Folk Song Society believes they do not need more, as most of the patrons will be from the immediate area and they may be able to work out an arrangement with other businesses on dates when there are performances.

Zoning – 433 Lyceum Avenue

Zoning – 433 Lyceum Avenue – Application before ZBA for the expansion of an existing day care from the first floor to the second and third floors (Four Seasons). Four Seasons director and owner Lauren Trimber presented.

Ms. Trimber purchased the business in March of 2015; her father owns the property itself. The childcare’s current enrollment is about 72-76 children (varying daily, as there are 2, 3 and 5 day plans) with a license for 85. While Ms. Trimber would like to expand to the 2nd and 3rd floors, she estimates that less than 15 new children would be enrolled and there would not be a need to hire additional staff. The expansion plan would continue to comport with the Fire Code. Some community members expressed concerns about traffic near the preschool. Ms. Trimber explained that to ameliorate traffic flow, Four Seasons utilizes staggered drop-off and pick-up times. They have also instituted a policy of requirement entry through Lyceum Avenue and exit onto Mitchell Street. Parents of children enrolled at the school were present and stated they had never experienced traffic issues during Ms. Trimber’s tenure and feel the facility is an excellent resource. One near neighbor expressed concern that tenants at other properties owned by the property owner are allowed to park in the Four Seasons lot at night but block his property during the day.

Zoning Discussions

After making their presentations, the zoning applicants were asked to leave the meeting and members and neighbors discussed the three zoning issues.

5711 Ridge Avenue (Domino’s)

  • There were a number of concerns about the possibility of trash/litter presenting a problem, citing issues seen in the community from other fast food establishments.
  • There were several comments about Roxborough not needing yet another pizza place.
  • One member stated that the positioning of a food establishment between a cleaners and an auto body shop seemed odd.
  • Another community member noted that on that particular corner of Ridge Avenue, there were already 3 gas stations and it was not as walkable/nice as other parts of the Ridge Avenue Corridor.
  • Don Simon reminded the community that the burden for a special exception, as opposed to a variance, was on the community to demonstrate that granting the special exception would be harmful to the community.
  • The straw poll taken showed mostly support among those present for the special exception for a take-out restaurant.

492 Roxborough Avenue (Folk Song Society)

Unanimous support

433 Lyceum Avenue (Four Seasons Childcare)

  • Some neighbors stated they felt traffic had picked up near the childcare center in recent years.
  • Parents of children enrolled there sung the praises of the director and staff and said that they are tremendously grateful to have such a great school in their neighborhood.
  • The director was described as approachable and would likely be willing to address any concerns of community members.
  • One CRCA member and neighbor opined that converting a mixed use property to a purely commercial use would take away from the character of the community, which is composed of residents. Another resident added that apartments are important for creating an economically diverse neighborhood.
  • All the parents and staff of the center in attendance support the proposed expansion. A straw poll of near neighbors and CRCA members showed most support, although there were those voting to not oppose to to oppose.
  • Police Report

    5th Police District Community Relations Officer Chris Jones had to leave but asked Don Simon to let the community know that crime is down. Also, the 5th District now has a medication drop box for safe disposal of unused or unwanted medications.

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