Philadelphia has, in our opinion, taken a giant step backward once again. While municipalities around the nation are coming to grips with the futility of flood plain development, Philadelphia is steaming ahead with plans that will place people in harm's way.
The decision last week by the Board of Zoning Adjustment approving variances for two planned residential developments on Venice Island paves the way for a disaster in the making.
Both developments - by Dranoff and Associates and Realen Properties - will be in the actual floodway of the Schuylkill River.
Realen owner Dennis Maloomian went over his plans for a apartment complex on land now occupied by the vacant Connelly Containers plant, stressing that actual residential apartments would be above the 100-year flood level, but not necessarily above the 500-year flood level.
(A 100-year flood level means there is a one in 100 chance of a flood that high occurring in any given year. It is possible to have 100-year floods in succeeding years.)
While Maloomian's plan looks reasonable on paper, we feel obligated to point out that the Titanic was unsinkable until it hit an iceberg and the earthen dam above Johnstown was safe until heavy rains caused it to give way.
When it comes to rain, rivers, and floodwaters, the engineering feats of man receive short shrift from the powers of nature.
That is precisely why municipalities around the country are buying up flood plain property, transforming it into passive parkland.
That way, when floods come, loss of life and property are minimized. Philadelphia has chosen to go the other way, and that's just plain unfortunate.