EFCC zoning mtg - August 13, 2020 at 7pm.
This meeting will be held virtually due to the coronavirus pandemic. Should be fun!
The agenda includes:
1) New development plan for 3449 Scotts Lane
2) Updates and some changes for 3515 Midvale (the development proposed for the former Chucks Garage)
1) 3449 Scotts Lane - The new owners of 3449 Scotts Lane (Stamm Development Group) have fairly dramatically changed the planned build out of this parcel. Previously the development planned was ~ 90 units comprised of mainly townhome-like buildings, some which were duplexes or triplexes, and which had something like 120-130 parking spaces. The new plans are for more of an apartment complex with 220 apartments and 220 parking spaces as well as around 80 bike parking spaces. The new plans are most easily seen and understood in this presentation.
The underlying zoning of this parcel was changed - mainly around the same time as and likely in an effort to facilitate the earlier proposal. This is done by City Council via legislation. EFCC generally supported that process despite some lingering concerns about traffic and parking and density and that approach to altering zoning districts because it was going to turn a trash strewn underutilized parking lot into a new part of the neighborhood with the promise of new residential housing and the rare inclusion of ample parking. Our recollection of the meetings and discussions was that even skeptics acknowledged the plan would be a pretty good outcome for the neighborhood given the short dumping happening on the windswept parking lot and the prospect of new for sale townhomes next to Recreation Center and walkable from the train station.
The prior developers also committed to turning the existing driveway running through the site and the former EPPI site (currently being redeveloped currently into senior housing) into essentially a through street connecting Scotts Lane and Henry Ave at the new light installed on Henry near the Roosevelt Blvd access road. This new roadway was widely supported because it will help distribute traffic and it was also thought that it will reduce the amount of new traffic on Scott's Lane because residents of the new development could exist via either Henry Ave OR Scotts Lane. The new owners have committed to retaining this access road, which EFCC thinks is a huge win and benefit.
The new design is by right in part, we were told, because of the change in the zoning that was done previously. The project is on the meeting agenda because its size triggered Civic Design Review. As some of you may recall, developers who can do a by right development that trigger civic design review have to do a community meeting and then up to two additional meetings in front of the design review board, but they are not obligated to change their design and approach. In essence, and unlike in a variance matter they have to listen to the neighborhood in a series of meetings, but they can ultimately ignore community feedback and still get a building permit for what they've proposed. Here are the additional zoning plans, zoning application, and elevation for what is currently proposed and what will be discussed in the meeting.
2) Updates for 3515 Midvale Ave (the former Chucks Garage site)
The developer and owner of 3515 Midvale Ave has requested to come back and discuss the project with the community specifically to discuss some changes they anticipate making. They intend (as of a recent update) to develop slightly fewer units that are a little bit larger than previously planned. I believe the number is around 30 units total now, down from 40-44 or so. Please don't quote me on those numbers as exact. They also intend to buy (or may have already gotten under agreement) two parcels of land that are located on Calumet street which were for sale this spring. If feasible, the developer intends to turn the two parcels on Calumet into dedicated parking for the 3515 Midvale building. Residents would then basically park on Calumet and walk over a skybridge to the top of the building at 3515 Midvale where they could descend to their units. Calumet is approximately at the same height as the top of the building proposed for 3515 Midvale.
Regardless of what you think, this is a novel and interesting (certainly expensive) approach to helping provide parking for these new residents and parking capacity is certainly a concern for a lot of people in East Falls. That said, I have heard from several neighbors on Calumet that they do not like the idea of their residential street supporting dedicated parking for a larger than is typical building that is located down on Midvale Ave.
Additionally, it needs to be noted that the building thats been proposed for 3515 Midvale is by right (no variance needed / could go get building permit today) but Im told (I haven't reviewed the zoning personally yet) that converting the two parcels on Calumet to be parking will require variances, which the neighborhood could forcibly oppose and petition the deciding body (the zoning board of adjustment) to not approve a variance. This is why the developer wanted to come meet with the neighborhood again and highlight what they are willing to try to do to try to help solve some of the challenges - like parking capacity - that have swirled around the Midvale Ave development ideas.
Lastly, the developer has tentatively agreed to have any costs for the parking be included in the rent, rather than charging extra for this amenity. The thinking is that if the benefit of dedicated parking is included in the rent, new residents will "pay" (it will be an unseen part of their rent) and use the parking but if they have to pay "extra" above and beyond their rent payments for the parking they will decide not to do so and will just park on the street, which many people feel cannot accommodate additional cars.
To set the stage fairly, some claim we have no space for any new cars on area streets and there is too much new development by far. Others see new buildings that are walkable from the train station and centrally located in East Falls as a great match for the neighborhood because it will support commerce and because they see room for more density. Most people probably fall somewhere in the middle.
No new drawings or eye candy are available for 3515 Midvale Yet.
As always, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org 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 and Philadelphia Speaks. The best way to get the agenda is by signing up for the weekly EFCC newsletter by emailing email@example.com
EFCC zoning meetings are held the third Wednesday of every month, unless otherwise noted here. Meetings are typically held at Philadelphia University’s (Phila U) Down’s Hall located off School House Lane across from Penn Charter or often at the East Falls Presbyterian Church on Vaux Street just off Midvale. Meetings are public and all are welcome.
About EFCC Zoning
EFCC is a Registered Community Organization (RCO) with a Zoning Committee made up of volunteers Members include:
Todd Baylson, (Chair), Bill Epstein (EFCC President), Michele Kleschick (Secretary), Emily Nichols, , Chris Rooney, Stan Sherman, Brendan Stilman, JD May, LB Young, Paul Elia, Matt McClure, Zachary Rogers, Jen Arnoldi, Hillary Langer, Mary Courtney
Review the Zoning Committee’s Operating Procedures Manual for more information and the EFCC bylaws to understand zoning's role within the broader civic. Interested in joining? Email us: firstname.lastname@example.org
Here are some interesting/useful zoning-related articles:
Presentations & materials from recent Zoning meetings
Civic Design Review (CDR) letter regarding the HOW properties apartment building proposed for 4440-42 Ridge Ave (adjacent to the townhomes HOW built between Ridge Ave and Kelly Drive). Here is the CDR presentation of the apartment project.
The redevelopment of 3625 McMichael Street (the former Ken Crest property) into two single family homes is supported by EFCC. The building is basically being preserved with some modest changes. Here is the refusal, application, plan and elevation. Here is our letter of support.
The owner (or soon to be owner) of 3588-3600 Calumet St., where Dobson St. intersects with Calumet St. near Frank’s Pizza, applied for a variance to combine these two properties that sit on the right side of Calumet St. as one travels up the street from Ridge Ave. The owner
proposed to build five townhomes with six parking garages / spaces at the rear of the properties. The refusals on the proposal deal with parcel widths and land areas smaller than those allowed by the zoning code. EFCC requested the developer ask the ZBA for a continuance so that the conversation could continue and wrote the following letter saying that if they moved ahead we opposed the variance (longer story but thats essentially what happened). The developer moved ahead and the ZBA approved the project despite our letter of opposition. Demolition of the existing buildings and the construction of the new homes is expected to start in the spring of 2020.
Jefferson University (formerly Phila U) received a refusal for two signage matters - the first being the signage on their new building at Henry Ave and School House Lane, the second being updates they plan for the scoreboard signage on their main athletic fields. The signs at the major athletic fields are being replaced to include the Jefferson name and colors etc. The athletic field signs will be approximately the same size with same lighting treatment etc. Renderings and the technical drawings that we have received can be found here, here, here and here. Jefferson's zoning board hearing was on August 14th, 2019. A map of the athletic field signage locations can be found here. Our letters of support, with some conditions for the treatment of the new building lighting are here and here.
Second, there is a Civic Design Review (CDR) triggered by the proposal to build 135 units in three new buildings planned on the eastern section of Dobson Mills where the old brick chimney was recently taken down. It appears the owners have their zoning approved, except for completion of the CDR process and the required public meeting. Please keep in mind that at this time it appears that the owners do not need a variance to get a building permit although they have committed to listening to feedback. Here are the plan, plan and elevations of the project that we have received. CDR meeting 1 was held on 9/3/1
3680 Indian Queen Ln - Owner sought support for a variance to convert the ground floor of a building from commercial to residential. The building is currently under construction authorized, as far as we can tell, by a valid building permit that includes commercial on the ground floor. The refusal also includes minimum lot size. Here is an information packet including the refusal, design details that are available etc. This project was discussed at two EFCC meetings and the reaction has been fairly negative with consistent outcomes from an online survey. Accordingly EFCC is opposing the requested variance. Letter of opposition here.
Penn Charter 3000 W School House Ln, Philadelphia, PA 19144 - Penn Charter seeks support for a variance for their proposed athletic and wellness center as well as a new field and reconfigured off street parking. These projects have been discussed publicly in prior public meetings about Penn Charters master plan. Here is the final refusal. Here are updated plans that will be discussed. EFCC is supporting the requested variance via the letter here
3515 Midvale Ave (formerly Chuck's Garage) - Informational presentation and Q & A with developer is summarized here: The convo about 3515 midvale was pretty basic and low key...no visuals, conversational approach etc. They are looking at either a mid rise multifamily bldg (# of units unknown) or a townhome plan (~10), leaning towards midrise w what they described as great commerce on the first floor (the much desired and often requested grocery and prepared food store was dangled as a potential type of tenant). They are optimistic they'd get approval to build a retaining wall like the other two adjacent properties have, which would add to build-able area. They can do the project by right but don't want to ruffle feathers and want to work with the community, but at the same time they need to make money and stated that they've spent an astonishing amount figuring out what is below ground in terms of gas station infrastructure, running water etc. as well as how to address the slope on the site. Its a complicated site. but they believe being adjacent to the train station is a big value proposition and worth doing. They specifically highlighted attracting people wanting to commute downtown as well as to Conshy. They heard loud and clear that the major and huge concern is parking and traffic on midvale, which attendees noted has gotten markedly worse recently in the mornings. They spoke about car share, biking, train, people having less cars in the future due to ridesharing etc. and other means of mitigating the one apartment = two cars mantra. Their views did not seem to shake attendees concerns about parking and traffic and they acknowledged that they heard the concerns loud and clear. They do want parking involved in the project but there are prohibitions on parking front due to zoning. Those could be addressed via a variance...but then they'd be seeking a variance. They promised they'd be back sooner than later.
Variance for 3901 Henry Ave (The Kelly House).
The applicant proposed a number of interior modifications including: creating meeting space, a reconfiguration of the interior spaces in the main house, and a caretakers residence above the existing garage. Here is the refusal, here is the notification letter and here are drawings and visuals. EFCC supported the requested variance. Our letter to the ZBA is here
Rivage / Grasso development at Ridge and Calumet
The Rivage project has had a reduction in the height and the number of units and some other modifications. Due to these and other changes, but because it is still above a certain threshold in terms of size, the City required that the developer go back to the Civic Design Review (CDR). CDR is for projects above a certain size to see a review by a panel of design professionals. It is not a zoning hearing or related to the variances discussed for the project some time ago. The CDR process does require a documented and advertised public meeting, which was held on August 15th, 2018. Truth be told, CDR can request that the applicant / developer make changes to their design and project, but the applicant is not required to adopt the changes. CDR can require that the applicant come back a 2nd time which is expected to happen on October 2, 2018. The applicant is still not required to adopt the CDR recommendations. More information on CDR can be found here: http://www.phila.gov/CityPlanning/projectreviews/Pages/CivicDesignReview.aspx
Here is a description of the updates:
" Grasso Holdings LLC (GH) is presenting an updated Civic Design Review (CDR) presentation for 4300 Ridge Ave., a ground up mixed use project at the corner of Ridge Avenue and Calumet Street. This project had previously received CDR and Zoning Board of Adjustment (ZBA) approvals, however, GH is required to re-submit for CDR approval based on certain design changes made to reduce the scale and overall cost of the project. With these design changes GH now anticipates being able to break ground on the project within the next several months.
The changes to the design of the project have resulted in no additional zoning refusals and, based upon the recent rezoning of the site to CMX-3, the project is now much closer to an as-of -right submission. Accordingly, this presentation to the EFCC is only in anticipation of a CDR presentation and there is no requested zoning relief at this time.
The project will now consist of 142 rental apartments (reduced from 206 apartments), 118 surface parking spaces and approximately 10,000 SF of retail space. The apartments will consist of a mix of studio, 1- and 2-bedroom units targeting professionals and empty nesters seeking a highly amenitized building with the benefit of living adjacent to Fairmount Park and the banks of the Schuylkill River. While the massing and building orientation is substantially similar, the current plans represent a reduction in scale and intensity from the previously approved plans. Compared to the previously approved design, the apartment unit count has been reduced from 206 to 142; parking has been reduced from 207 to 118 spaces; the number of floors has been reduced from 6 stories to 5 stories and building height has been reduced from 79’-8” to 65’-3”.
The project will be presented by KTGY architects, an internationally known architecture firm based in the Washington, DC area. As is required of a CDR presentation the design team will be presenting the characteristics and public realm elements of the project. This presentation will focus on building height and scale, exterior materials, proposed streetscape and ground floor plans with relationship to outside public spaces."
We understand that the developer will still implement traffic improvements including the right turn lane onto Calumet off Ridge heading towards downtown and the other intersection improvements discussed a while back.
There have been a lot of questions about why the project has taken so long and what the challenges have been. I do not want to speak for him but David Grasso suggested that he has momentum to pull this project forward at this time and told me that he intends to move forward as quickly as possible following the CDR. I'm sure the timeline is something he can discuss at the meeting.
Scotts Lane Townhome project
This housing development has been proposed by Callahan Ward. Here is their website: http://callahanward.com/aboutus.html
The development is proposed for the large and often underutilized parking lot behind New Courtland (formerly EPPI) that is immediately uphill from the train tracks where they cross Scotts Lane. It is diagonal from McDevitts Rec Cntr. The description from Callahan Ward states: "The design includes 92 units situated over the site. The land plan calls for returning a significant portion of the site from asphalt parking lot back to landscaped "meadow" and courtyard space around which the new homes will be centered. The site has 122 parking spaces, most of which are within the footprint of each home site with guest parking scattered around the perimeter of the property. The project is conceived of as a for-sale project with a mix of multi-family, duplex and single family homes."
Regarding circulation, Callahan Ward has secured access to Henry Avenue via the New Courtland property in addition to the main access off of Scotts Lane.
A site plan, renderings and additional details can be found here.
EFCC supported the initial work to begin on the updated zoning requested by Callahan Ward. Additional input has been assured over the fall of 2018 and any additional changes sought will be coordinated with Councilman Jones.
EFCC supported Penn Charter's proposed ball field project after requesting that the design be adjusted to save at least two Heritage trees. This was an imperfect outcome but we sought to blend our goal to reduce the number of huge trees they were removing with our support for this important and beautiful neighborhood institution that generously lets residents use its property and athletic fields. The letter of support is here. Here is their refusal and the overview of the master plan / SPIN, which includes the ballfield project.
Penn Charter Preliminary Master Plan and Special Purpose institutional zoning discussions from May 2018 Zoning Meeting are here
EFCC supported the proposed demolition of the garage located at 3465 Bowman Street which is proposed to be replaced with a new rowhome. Here is the plan and refusal. The letter of support to the ZBA will be posted here at the earliest opportunity.
Here is a brief overview of the Ken Crest matter.
After three meetings and a number of ongoing discussions, email threads, an online survey, a petition in opposition to the Ken Crest proposal and a lot of negative interactions the zoning cmmttee voted to take no position on the Ken crest proposal in this KenCrest letter . This was insufficient for a number of the near neighbors who are also EFCC members and who wanted a firmer no out of the EFCC and the letter was held. At a subsequent General Meeting of the EFCC (the 4th public meeting discussing Ken Crest) the members in attendance voted to override the Zoning Cmmttee and write a letter to the ZBA describing the EFCC as a firm no on the Ken Crest proposal. That letter is here. Following submission of that letter to the ZBA, the applicant withdrew their application for a variance indefinitely on or around March 19th, 2017.
Subsequently, on April 12th, 2018 Ken Crest received their permit as a "reasonable accommodation under the Federal Fair Housing Amendments Act". Here is a screenshot of the permit issuance. This accommodation bypassed all local zoning processes although it was discussed as a potential approach that Ken Crest might consider taking during the public meetings about Ken Crest's efforts.
Additional information about the Ken Crest proposal includes:
1) Updated plan
2) Updated section/elevation 1 of 2
3) Updated section/elevation 2 of 2
4) DRAFT/PROPOSED Agreement with KenCrest (!!!! - NOT agreed to, nor executed - !!!! - just proposed by them based on feedback from the prior meetings - !!!!)
5) Original refusal
EFCC supported the latest element of New Courtland's plan for the former EPPI property, and the tower portion of the redevelopment specifically via this letter to the ZBA. They have presented their plan (link here) a number of times in front of the East Falls community and other nearby communities seeking support. The refusal was because multi family was not permitted in the current zoning. Here is their refusal.
EFCC is supporting the development proposed for 3300 Conrad St following the 6/21/17 mtg. We requested specific improvements to the property regarding the street frontage and to improve the space for the public. See the refusal, the developers letter notifying near neighbors about the 6/21/17 zoning mtg, drawings of the proposed development (set 1 and set 2) and the EFCC letter of support to the ZBA outlining the requested improvements.
HOW properties is redesigning their mixed use project located off Ridge between Ridge and Kelly Drive on what is commonly referred to as the "Japanese Restaurant site". Here is an updated presentation of what they are proposing to building including: a small number of townhomes (8-17 over two phases) and a smaller 65 unit apartment building. HOW believes that these revisions will be by right (no variance needed), which means this is an informational presentation although they have requested input on the design, materials etc.
EFCC letter of support for East Falls Family Dentistry's special exception
EFCC letter of support for the New Courtland Senior Services redevelopment proposal for 3232 Henry Avenue (the former EPPI site). Here is a presentation of their plans for the New Courtland at Henry Avenue redevelopment.
EFCC letter documenting no support for variance request: 3513 Ainslie Street
Information on the HOW properties / EFDC parking lot proposal from January 2017 zoning mtg:
The letter of support from EFCC
Description of the project: HOW properties and the EFDC are proposing taking an unmaintained paved lot own by the Philadelphia Department of Parks and Recreation and converting it to a functioning parking lot. Half of the spaces will be permit parking (we believe for apartment tenants) and the other half will be first come first serve. The parking lot will be leased directly to The East Falls Development Corporation. The lease will be for 1 year and will be renewed yearly. Eventually, it is hoped that the parking lot will be converted into a through street to increase traffic circulation and enable people to more easily get to the recreational path and the Schuylkill river
EFCC and Philadelphia University SPIN Memorandum of Understanding - signed February 2017
Presentation from 350Philly discouraging fossil fuels and SEPTA's proposed CHP plant.
HOW Properties 4440 Ridge Avenue development (the Japanese Restaurant Site). Here is the latest version of their CDR presentation.
Presentation from EFDC about new parking lot -> through street as part of HOW properties Japanese Rest. Site Redevelopment