The mission of EFCC's Zoning Committee is to protect & improve the quality of life within East Falls, a community of Philadelphia Pennsylvania, through the cooperative actions of East Falls residents and businesses.
THIS 11/15/23 ZONING MEETING FOR A POTENTIAL MAGIC THEATER AT 3015 W. SCHOOLHOUSE LANE was CANCELLED.
THE OWNER OF THE CHURCH APPEARS TO HAVE WITHDRAWN THEIR INTEREST IN SELLING TO AN ENTITY THAT WILL RE-USE THE CHURCH FOR PERFORMANCES RELATING TO THE MAGIC ARTS.
EFCC zoning meetings generally take place on the third Wednesday of every month when there are specific projects with zoning refusals needing variances. As a Registered Community Organization we are required to review projects going before the Zoning Board of Adjustment applying for variances.
QUEEN LANE RESERVOIR PROJECT
- ZONING CHANGE & COMMUNITY AGREEMENT
The Queen Lane Reservoir Reconstruction Project was introduced to the community on January 9th at 7 pm during the General Membership Meeting. There have been follow up meetings on June 6th (with neighbors on borings for tunnel) and September 11th with updates to include community concerns. See commentary to the right!
FOR JUNE 6th PRESENTATION - CLICK HERE
FOR SEPTEMBER 11TH PRESENTATION - CLICK HERE
EAST FALLS NCA Updated!!!
For Executive Summary of Changes - click here.
For draft showing edits to existing NCA - click here.
For final bill - click here
EFCC is a Registered Community Organization (RCO) with a Zoning Committee made up of volunteers. Members include:
Hilary Langer, (Chair), Emily Nichols (EFCC President), Raymond Adams, Bill Epstein, Glynis Tart, Stan Sherman, LB Young, Lisa Monaco, Justin Yost, Paul Elia, Thomas Flynn, Jim O'Toole, Bruce Weitz, Linda Norris.
All members abide by the zoning rules and regulations provided by the ZBA and the EFCC's procedures and bylaws, which can be reviewed in the EFCC's Archives.
Queen Lane Water Revitalization Plan:
The Philadelphia Water Department (PWD) is asking Councilman Curtis Jones, Jr. to advance what the East Falls Community Council (EFCC) believes to be flawed legislation to rezone the Queen Lane Water Treatment facility, which fronts on the residential blocks of Henry Avenue and Queen Lane. The EFCC is engaged in representing East Falls to improve the legislation and to obtain from PWD a community agreement that would protect the neighborhood.
The zoning change was requested originally in December of 2022 without any consultation with our community. The councilman’s office acknowledged this oversight and pulled back the bill after representatives of the EFCC spoke at several hearings.
The core purpose of the zoning change is to better reflect the actual use of the reservoir site so that PWD can start planning its decades long, multi-million-dollar reconstruction without seeking zoning variances, which can be a burdensome and lengthy endeavor at the Zoning Board of Adjustment. The proposed “Civic Use” designation would put the process of permitting and construction on the fast track, without needing a master plan or community input. We have seen the consequences of “by right” on Midvale Avenue.
EFCC supports the change in concept. The EFCC supports the proposed core zoning change, but giving PWD carte blanche presents unacceptable risks. The bill as stated earlier needs to be modified, and it must be accompanied simultaneously with an executed and enforceable community agreement that will provide stipulations and pro-actively guide a master plan for the reconstruction of the facility.
Since January 2023 the EFCC has hosted three public meetings in which PWD officials have described their need for the Queen Lane Reservoir rezoning and explained that it was too premature to share any conceptual plans. The “Civic Use” zoning would allow uses such as transit stations, research labs, day care facilities, which PWD has agreed to exclude – resulting in two by-right uses: water treatment facilities and wireless transmission equipment.
Regarding wireless transmission equipment, EFCC is concerned that the bill does not adequately limit the height or location for such antennas. For example, a 100 ft tower would be inappropriate near Henry Avenue or Queen Lane. The PCPC appears to acknowledge this concern, and is working on addressing this issue.
A more fundamental flaw is that the bill does not include a requirement for an approved master plan. A master plan is commonly used throughout the city so that development at university campuses and other large complexes for example, are accomplished with at least some planning oversight by the city and public input. Specifically, by-right zoning is granted, in return for the owner (in this case the PWD) to maintain a master plan approved by the Planning Commission and City Council. Amendments are also approved.
For example, if the PWD needs added driveways for trucks, the master plan process will prevent them from being placed in particularly bad locations. If large buildings or noisy equipment needs to be built, a master plan would help limit negative impacts on our residents.
Secondly, as stated earlier, PWD previously agreed that the zoning change bill would be simultaneously accompanied by a strong community agreement. This agreement would contain all the other concerns raised in the meetings with the community and the immediate neighbors.
To protect the community’s quality of life, EFCC has worked with neighbors to develop stipulations and requirements including landscape buffers, lighting and fencing, preservation of some existing buildings and stone walls, and noise and dust controls which are not sufficiently provided for in the zoning code. These were incorporated in an outline and submitted to PWD. PWD officials knew of these concerns and initially agreed to include them in an agreement.
At the beginning of October, the EFCC submitted the agreement outline and PWD officials took more than a month to send back their edits. The PWD edits dismembered the outline and added non-committal phrases such as "to the best of our ability," "as much as possible” and "will endeavor to negotiate in 2030." PWD also wants to change the form of the document from an agreement to a letter of commitment.
EFCC seeks an executed binding community agreement to accompany passage of the bill. Considering the amount of work to salvage our agreement, we are pleased to announce that Councilmember Jones has agreed to withdraw the bill and reintroduce it in January, giving us more time. We appreciate his understanding. We are also asking PWD to do better in understanding the importance of our requirements in advancing our agreement.
Following the input of attendees at our community meetings and the recommendation of the EFCC Zoning Committee, we have hired a zoning lawyer to restore the draft agreement to enforceability.
EFCC will continue to insist on the requirement of a master plan, a better-defined wireless transmission equipment provision and a meaningful and binding community agreement with PWD.
What can residents do to help?
Stay tuned to the EFCC Zoning website, www.eastfallscommunity.org/currentzoning, for updates and other ways to help.
Contribute to the legal fees of our zoning attorney. The fundraising goal is $7,500. Please send checks payable to East Falls Community Council at: PO Box 12672, Philadelphia, PA. 19129. Reference Queen Lane Community Agreement.
Final Note: The PWD has completed test borings for the connecting tunnel between our reservoirs and those of Belmont this fall. These were located in areas where there was no impact on our roads and residential properties. The route of the tunnel will follow the Roosevelt boulevard through rock under the Route 1 Twin Bridges. Pump stations that will power the water through the tunnel have been approved in land owned by the Park.
3500 Ainslie (CMX-1):
This is the corner property located at the corner of Ainslie & Conrad. It used to be a bar with apartments above. The owner appealed to legalize 5 existing apartments.
Ainslie neighbors have strongly objected over time to the poor condition of the property, the continued use of the sidewalk for trash and recycling storage and 5 to 7 cars parked adjacent.
Neighbors and EFCC zoning committee requested with a proviso that a maximum of 4 appts be approved and the ground floor be restored to Commercial use.
The Zoning Board of Adjustment (ZBA) supported the community in their decision. A notice of an appeal by the owner to the ZBA decision has not been received by EFCC to date.
Neighborhood Commercial Area (NCA):
Described at length in the East Falls Now and the subject of a community meeting and vote on June 12th, the EFCC has been working with a coalition of business stakeholders and the Development Corporation to update the existing east Falls NCA.
An NCA is an overlay to the Zoning Code which contains additional local requirements appropriate to our neighborhood. The updated NCA has now become part of the Zoning Code being passed before the PCC summer layoff. The update is available for review on this EFCC website Zoning page.
A second round of updates has been discussed and will be further described in an upcoming update. Items under review are for example limiting height for CMX-3 projects on Ridge Avenue and adding a parking requirement to CMX-2.5 projects. For example, the new CMX-2.5 developments on Midvale Avenue do not require off street parking by the zoning code. An updated NCA would mandate it.
The goal is to pass a 2nd update in the springtime 2024 council session.
Click HERE to see the NCA updated in June.
PECO have done their due diligence of the sale and bought the land under the Brewery. The PECO plan was to relocate the transformer substation adjacent to the creek to higher ground. PECO have not responded to requests for or provided details of any intentions or plans that will indicate the future of the Brewery or the Transformer Station. However, PECO is compelled to honor the terms of the existing lease which for now allows operation of the Brewery for the next 7 years. The Brewery is a significant community asset.
3300 West Schoolhouse Lane (Penn Charter):
The ZBA has approved the Masterplan and Lower school. One neighbor situated on the Oak Road has lodged an appeal to the masterplan, particularly related to issues of parking, traffic flow and landscaping and parking at the Historic Timmons House. However, the construction of the Lower School will proceed starting with demolition of the field house in the Fall. This is the site of the new lower school.
4401 Ridge Avenue:
PHA have stated that the property will be put up for sale once again. There is a short recent history to this.
EFCC Leadership met with PHA in February 2023 to lay the groundwork to avert a repeat of the ATAPCO 4401 Ridge Avenue project. Over 2 years this was a wasteful, time consuming and expensive process that fortunately resulted in the withdrawal of an inappropriate development.
The project was a misfit being both an oversized neighbor to HillTop and Falls Ridge as well only minimally contributing to the walkability and continuity of the commercial/retail environment. The bulk of the units were one bedroom and studios warehoused in an eight story building at the rear of the site, the building length exceeding that of the demolished Falls Towers!
Our understanding of our meeting above, was that PHA would authorize a sale to a developer if, and only if that developer had worked out a mutually acceptable project with the community and stakeholders. PHA had stated at this time that they no longer had an obligation to HUD for this site.
However, David Grasso, the developer of The Driftway at Calumet and Ridge Avenue reached out to EFCC on June 29th to state he had would like to develop the site at 4401 Ridge and that he had spoken to PHA, who told him to work out a project with the community and then report back to them. They did at the same time state that there was still a HUD obligation for the site. EFCC leadership contacted PHA to confirm if the obligation to HUD was on or off the table, who confirmed that indeed any sale of the site is now required to conform to current HUD regulations This now means there will be a straight sale 10% plus/minus market price to a developer and there will be no pre-sale project that could be worked out.
Our hope is that a modified NCA will actually be the tool that results in a successful development appropriate to our neighborhood. We will strongly support any developer who can come to the table with a project that advocates homeownership and or multi bed units encouraging vested stakeholders.
3520 Indian Queen Lane:
This site or any proposed development related to it, is not yet part of any zoning application, but it would be of significant impact if a housing developer would for example seek a variance for apartment dwellings which on the surface would appear to be a not just a worst-case scenario but a possible one.
This is the Site of Longs Auto and is currently zoned I-1 Industrial. The site is under contract and the sale is pending an environmental review. This site should remain as zoned I-1, meaning that any proposal for residential development would be an automatic variance that would bring the proposal before the neighbors and community to which it is suspected, there would be strong opposition to a high-density development that favors only the developers bottom line.
As a neighborhood we currently have 745 Apartment dwellings nearing completion with only 555 parking spaces provided. We are not a transit-oriented design community! We have regional rail with only adequate rush hour service and good access to roads radiating everywhere - this means at least 50% of our residents likely commute by car to their work - meaning we will remain a congested vehicle centric neighborhood with increased levels of service on our roads (LOS).
This data excludes New Courtland (formerly EPPI) and the Falls Center (formerly MCP).
The potential impact of another 100 units with 100 cars on a one-way street that is already a speedway cannot be underestimated.
What’s critical here is that those who find it easy to comment in media forums, take the step to come to EFCC community meetings and appear at ZBA zoom meetings, so their opinions are considered and acted upon.
Please check into the EFCC website zoning page for any zoning news and potential dates for hearings and not just pertaining to 3520 Indian Queen Lane.
UPDATED School House Lane
New traffic Access Study dated 10.14.2022 for William Penn Charter Schools' Master Plan. This study is based on new data just collected.
See below link for The Parking Assessment dated 10.14.2022
Masterplan & Lower School Presentation PDF HERE
ZBA Hearing 10.26.22 Report - Penn Charter presented The Master Plan and Traffic Study/Parking Assessment. Due to time constraints the hearing was scheduled to be resumed on November 30th at 2.00 pm. Several neighbors have hired an attorney to represent their concerns regarding the master Plan and Timmons House parking.
The ZBA approved the Project at a special ZBA Member meeting on December 21st 2022.
The issue of the transformed landscape and added parking at the Historic Timmons House will be reviewed by the Historical Commission. This review will be triggered when the application for the Building Permits are submitted.
3504 Ainslie Street
Re: RCO Meeting Calendar No: MI-2021-003662
Zoning Application No: ZP-2021-007889
Project Address: 3504 Ainslie Street
For the erection of 2 new homes on an existing single lot with one existing home to be subdivided into three lots. Open lots have existed for 147 years between these homes.
Zoning Committee Meeting: 09/15/21 & Neighbor Site Meeting: 10/11/21.
Neighbor position: OPPOSE
ZBA Hearing Date - 11/02/21: continued at request of the 11th hour hiring of an attorney by the Owner.
ZBA Hearing Date - 03/09/22: Continued.
Zoning Appeal Application Withdrawn by Owner: 04/07/22.
Owner has submitted for subdivision of the Lot into two lots which was approved. The zoning for the single family home has also been approved by the L & I and is now by-right.
Re: RCO Meeting Calendar No: MI-2021-002538
Zoning Application No: ZP-2021-003150
Project Address: 3549 Sunnyside Avenue
The owner of 3549 Sunnyside Ave. seeks to change the ‘use’ to (4) dwelling units in an existing building with an existing granted ‘use’ of one (1) commercial unit and three (3) dwelling units.
Community Zoning Meetings: 10/20/21 & 11/17/21.
Neighbor Position: SUPPORT
ZBA Hearing Date: 03/23/2022 - Variance Granted.
2783 Roberts Avenue
Re: RCO Meeting Calendar No: MI-2021-002538
Zoning Application No: ZP-2021-0000765
Project Address: 2783 Roberts Avenue
This is an application for an Assembly and Entertainment use on the 1st floor limited to 49 people. There is an existing office use on the upper level which is currently vacant. The assembly and Entertainment use is not allowed in this zoning district (I2).
ZBA Appeal date of 01/26/22 was continued as there had been no community review at that time or representation by Counsel.
ZBA Appeal Date of 06/22/22 was continued due to lack of community review.
The required community meeting was held on September 21st. It was reported at the meeting by the attorney of the adjacent business that several illegal gatherings have been held at this location without the zoning approval of the variance that would authorize assembly use. This was documented in surveillance video on several dates. The zoning committee is unwilling at this time to support the proposal.
ZBA appeal date 11/09/22:
The Variance was granted by the ZBA with Provisos. Those provisos and the variance were granted for a 2-year term only and consisted of operating hours restricted to Thursday, Friday & Saturday - 8 pm until 2.00 am. The Events are restricted to 49 people, and the owner will employ security for the duration of the event and trash pick up.
4401 Ridge Avenue
EFCC Prevails at 4401 Ridge Avenue!
(185 Apartments, 179 parking spaces, 179,000 SF.)
The East Falls Community Council is pleased to announce that the zoning variance for 4401 Ridge is no longer in place. Attorneys for the property owner, PHA, have contacted our attorney Paul Boni stating that PHA would be abandoning the zoning application, the zoning permit and the zoning variance. PHA also explained that the property is no longer under contract with the developer, Atapco.
PHA has put this position in writing and papers were then drawn up and filed with the Court. As the parties requested, the Judge signed the Order declaring that our appeal is moot and sending the case back to the Zoning Board so they can cancel their old decision that granted the variance. We received a copy of the signed Order on Friday, October 7th.
Why did the PHA forfeit the variance? We know that PHA’s attorneys reviewed the transcripts of the hearings held by the Zoning Board. Our attorney, Paul Boni, has always been confident that we presented a great case at the Zoning Board, and that we stood a good chance at prevailing in Court. Perhaps PHA saw the same writing on the wall? Also, and we are just speculating, it is possible that business reasons were at play on some level: the real estate market, the cost of construction materials, inflation, etc. None of this takes away from this huge success, and the pride we have in the community standing firm and presenting our case so well at the Zoning Board.
Where do we go from here? We believe we should engage with PHA and talk to them about what type of development would better fit on this property. PHA is still the owner and presumably will want to pursue another sale or development. It is in our interests to work with PHA to try and find a project that works for both PHA and to the benefit of the community at large.
For now, we celebrate this success. We celebrate the residents of Falls Ridge and Hilltop, the residents most immediately impacted. We also celebrate all those who participated in the zoning hearings, and all those who have supported funding of our legal appeal. Finally, we thank those of our executive and zoning committees who have managed the process and our attorney Paul Boni.
PHA have stated they have no current plans to put the site up for sale once again.
Current STATUS OF GRANTED Variance Requests
For the erection of 3 new town homes with parking spaces in rear under the town homes accessed by a shared driveway. There is included 12 parking spaces dedicated to 3515 Midvale on the rear section of the site zoned CMX2.5. To review the submission going before the ZBA click here.
Zoning Committee Meeting: 11/17/21
ZBA Appeal date: 01/12/22
Applying for Building Permits
This is for an accessory roof deck and exit stair for what will be Mike Murphy's Taqueria Cresta and bar on Midvale right next to Black Squirrel. See application here.
Zoning Committee Meeting: 10/20/21
ZBA Appeal date: 12/15/21
EFCC Zoning Committee: SUPPORT
Building permits obtained and under construction.
UPDATE EXISTING APPLICATIONS:
This is for the legalization of a dwelling structure above garage on the rear portion of a double lot. The owner has progressively enlarged the existing building as we have met with no effort to remove, alter or reduce the size of the structure. EFCC has opposed the variance. Finally, on August 25th, the ZBA denied the variance. See ZBA Notice of Decision. (NOD)
3445 Division Street
This application for 2 small but tall homes of 900 SF each on an 1800 SF site was denied by the ZBA. The owner has appealed the decision which will take it to the Court of Common Pleas. The neighbors have agreed to fund the legal costs of the intervention and representation giving the neighbors and EFCC standing at the appeal to continue to oppose this development.
The developer withdrew the appeal and has now successfully applied for a single family home on the lot.
4300-26 Ridge Avenue - GRASSO Project
Yes the day finally arrived when we will see this forever vacant and blighted lot with a building! Groundbreaking took place on Friday September 10th 2021. Foundation, lower parking levels and 1st floor reinforced concrete building base is completed with 4 floors of apartments under construction above.
4440-2 Ridge Avenue - HOW Project.
Ground Floor Steel and deck above retail ground floor complete. 5 levels of apartment framing and sheathing completed to date.
Current Proposal & Variance Request Updates as of September 14th 2021
1. 4401 Ridge Avenue - former PHA site (Parcel 3 or III) - Ridge and Merrick - review of developer proposal with notified stakeholders. 185 rental units, 180 cars and 179,000 SF overall development. 90' tall at its high point. To see the ATAPCO proposal Click here for the layout and design of the project presented at the 2nd Civic design Review.
Please click here for community input following the community design review at City Planning.
Following the course of of two civic design reviews with City Planning and the EFCC Zoning group, the ATAPCO developers from Baltimore Maryland made some minor cosmetic changes namely the addition of balconies to some of the apartments and more significantly, an increase in the footprint of the corner retail at Ridge & Merrick. The green roof area was increased and a second loading bay added. The number of apartments remains unchanged but parking spaces have been reduced to 180 (going forward to the ZBA appeal process) The overall footprint of the project places a long unbroken high rise block at the back of the site, which has been described as reminiscent of the original towers demolished.
The ZBA appeal hearing (required because of the steep slope refusal) was held on June 9th and was continued to August 17th at 9.30 am. Zoning notices were improperly posted around the site, but more significantly an additional meeting was requested by Councilman Jones and Kelvin Jeremiah of PHA to learn more of the concerns of near neighbors to the development . This meeting was held by zoom on Tuesday June 29th.
The August 17th ZBA hearing was resumed to September 8th at 3.30 pm due to the length presentation and testimony of the applicant. At this time the protestants and close neighbors in opposition to the development to the development in its current form will be able to be heard.
2. 3445 Division Street - proposal for 2 homes with garages on undersized lots of 908 SF (1440 SF is minimum requirement). As of March 10th after the 3rd attempt to reach a vote, the ZBA unanimously gave a NO vote to the Zoning Variance Appeal in the favor of the neighbors. The developer NUBO Group has subsequently filed an appeal at Court of Common Pleas to overturn the ZBA vote. EFCC and neighbors have intervened so we may continue to uphold the position of the Zoning Board and the neighborhood.
3. 3018 Midvale Avenue - the owner is seeking legalization of an existing recently built structure in rear lot. The variance hearing of 01/27/21 was continued due to an incorrect application for accessory storage, when in fact the owner was applying for an accessory residential unit above a garage. The owner has since proposed to make significant alterations to the existing structure but the ZBA has still issued 2 refusals which brought the owner and community back to a hearing on August 3rd. The ZBA did not hear testimony of neighbors at this meeting or meet the EFCC request for continuance as the most recent proposal had not been reviewed. They decided that a letter of support/opposition will be read on August 25th and the board will take their vote after the reading. Fortunately the ZBA agreed with the neighbors and denied the variance and legalization of the property.
4. 4440-42 Ridge Avenue - Construction has started on this 136 unit 96 parking space apartment building. The lower level is retail space which is isolated and disconnected from other retail on Ridge Avenue. The lower parking level and foundation excavation is well underway.
Here is the CDR presentation of the apartment project.
5. 3515 Midvale Avenue - Construction has started on this 33 unit apartment building on the former site of Chucks garage. The large bill board has come down and the existing garage building is demolished. Site remediation and removal of fill is complete and foundation and foundation walls have come up to grade level.
6. 3570-74 Calumet Street - David Ross of Argos development is proposing 3 townhomes fronting onto Calumet with parking in the rear. Parking via a common driveway is also proposed for 12 parking spaces dedicated for 3515 Midvale Avenue. Access to the rear of 3515 Midvale Appts would be provided via restricted access to steps down the steep slope. Originally the proposal for this site was for 22 cars to address concerns of parking on Midvale. However, Calumet neighbors rightly did not want parking issues on Midvale to become their congestion issue. Two meetings of neighbors at the project site came to the census that townhomes and limited parking for Midvale might be a reasonable compromise..
7. 3227-43 Stokley - an existing event facility with an outside deck and entertainment applying for a restaurant and full kitchen. This is a non-conforming use in the zoning for the site. This is a shared neighborhood project with RAH Ridge Allegheny Hunting Park Civic Association. The project location is close to the Bakers Center shopping center. This project is supported by EFCC after a July 21st meeting was held with the owner and RAH and due to the strong support voiced in the meeting. the ZBA approved the variance and the project on August 25th.
8. 2783 Roberts Avenue - an existing corner building with some mixed uses including daycare. There appears to be some maintenance work shop space in the lower level. They are proposing to apply for restaurant use which is not allowed in the zoning for the building. This is a shared neighborhood project with RAH Ridge Allegheny Hunting Park Civic Association. The project location is close to the Bakers Center shopping center.
As always, please email us at email@example.com with any questions, ideas or concerns.
We make every effort to post the upcoming meeting agenda as soon as is possible and will also post on Next Door. The best way to get the agenda is by signing up for the weekly EFCC newsletter by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
EFCC zoning meetings are held the third Wednesday of every month, unless otherwise noted here. Meetings are public and all are welcome. Neighbors living close to projects on the Agenda are strongly encouraged to participate.
Additional Zoning Related Resources