Two zoning projects given thumbs up at PROPAC meeting

Both projects passed with little dispute.

Two zoning projects were green-lighted at Wednesday night’s PROPAC meeting.

The first involved replacing the fence around the SEPTA trolley/bus loop between Richmond and Emery streets. The fence is located on the Emery Street side of the loop.

“Legally under zoning, we can only build a four-foot tall wall,” said Shawn Rairigh, a consultant for Gannett Fleming, a company contracted to complete PennDOT’s I-95 revive project, which includes a revamp of the trolley loop. “That fence currently is approximately about 7.5–8 feet tall, but it’s deteriorated. Parts of the ironworks are falling apart, the brickwork needs remortering, and some of the pillars are in really bad shape. So when we rebuild the whole entire loop site, we’d like to replace that wall.”

Gannett Fleming would replace the fence with a half brick wall, with aluminum estate fencing on top and brick pillars. In addition, Emery Street will be widened, which will eliminate the sidewalk on that side of the road. However, residents on that block typically parked their cars on top of the sidewalk, rendering it practically useless anyway.

Residents at the meeting unanimously supported the decision.

The second zoning project approved was a 158-unit home, condo and commercial space project, which would include 79 for-sale condos and 78 single-family homes along the eastern corner of Frankford Avenue and East Lehigh Avenue in Kensington. There would be a parking space for each unit. The project would create an additional 12,000 square-feet of commercial space.

An unused car lot currently stands at the location.

“Basically our mindset is that a lot of people are getting priced out of neighborhoods so we’re trying to be able to afford to give product back to the neighborhoods that we can afford and also to have our parents and our families still reside in the neighborhood,” said Lawrence McKnight, a representative from developer The Riverwards Group. “We’re just trying to take a blighted, underutilized property and turn it into something everyone can be proud of, and start the reinvigoration and regeneration of Kensington.”

The measure passed 20–1 among residents.

City Councilman Bobby Henon also dropped by the meeting to briefly touch base with residents. He wished residents a happy new year and stressed the importance of zoning meetings.

“You guys have been slammed with zoning, and I’m really happy and pleased that you’re on top of that,” Henon said. “I think that quality of life does start with zoning in our neighborhoods and if you’re asleep and you’re not paying attention…something can slip by and unattendedly have some kind of consequences that really puts a little more burden on our blocks and our neighborhoods — especially when it comes to parking and density.”

He also talked briefly about the city’s opioid epidemic, which he called the second biggest issue in the city behind education.

“There’s over 70,000 people who are addicted to heroin in the city of Philadelphia,” he said. “Be alert, be aware both to people you love — your friends, your family and your neighbors. And the city is here to help with either supplemental services and our mental health department directly. So you can call my office and you can do that anonymously, you can look it up online or whatever the case may be, but I think the important thing is that you recognize that there are issues and there’s help out there.”