Manayunk Neighborhood Council
Saint Mary of the Assumption

December 14 2016 Meeting Report

Other reports of the meeting

Report from Manayunk Neighborhood Council

Saint John's Parish wishing everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year Thanks to everyone for coming out to the Saint Mary's meeting December 14th. Our top shelf, top notch bean counters, after complaining that they were bean counters not people counters, put their heads together and observed that there were 72 people (with a 1.5% uncertainty) in attendance.

The meeting was hosted by North Light Community Center. Our thanks to them for the great setup!

We had our first meeting on March 23 when we got our first details of what might be proposed, 100+ apartments covering all available space with no parking to the community or North Light.

In the intervening nine months we have repeatedly made our strong and detailed objections known to the developer, the Planning Commission and Councilman Jones.

Apparently to no effect.

Councilman Jones has directed the Planning Commission to draft a targeted re-zoning of the property to accommodate the developer's plans.

We have been seeking a meeting with the Councilman to review his actions and press our position. We have so far been met with silence.

MNC explained that this specialized spot zoning, for a developer, was an unprecedented move by the Councilman, who has otherwise stayed as unengaged as possible in zoning issues.

The area is already RSA-5 (singles and twins), already incredibly dense, and there is no defensible reason that it should be developed multi-family with double the density of homes. The church and rectory are historically protected and we are confident that they can be dealt with through the normal zoning variance process.

Irene Madrak, North Light Community Center Executive Director, explained North Light's historic role in the community and how the current proposal, chosen by the church, could threaten their existance.

To our great disappointment, Josh Cohen, representing Councilman Jones and Matt Wysong from the Planning Commission, assumed the role of the developer in attempting to mislead and threaten the attending neighbors.

Josh claimed the developer had bought the project and it was a done deal. A point he was forced to retract when challenged from the audience. The project is under agreement and the developer could back out at any time.

Josh also went the bullying / threatening route by claiming the alternative was 45 single family homes without parking. In debating this is called a false dichotomy where you assert there are only two opposite choices when in fact there are many choices. The argument fails a couple of ways. The church and rectory are protected and therefore fewer houses could be built. In any event no sane developer would build without providing parking. We have seen over and over that they will tie themselves in pretzels to get parking, knowing very well the return on the investment.

Though called on it, Josh continued to flog this argument throughout the meeting.

Matt took exception to our calling this “spot zoning” saying it wasn't spot zoning it was a “master plan”. What the Planning Commission is proposing is re-zoning the property to RM3 (multi-family). The mechanism to do this is a “master plan” but the procedure and result are in fact spot zoning. Enough with the word play. It's spot zoning!

The zoning change would be done as a bill, introduced by the Councilman, subject to some public hearings, then, if passed, would make the area a permanent high density multi-family “spot” in the heart of Manayunk.

When pressed as to why the Councilman would step in here when he took no interest in the nearly identical Saint Lucy's zoning cases, the only answer was because the developer asked him to.

Josh and Matt continued to compare their proposed re-zoning with a recent master plan for Philadelphia University. That project is something like 50 times larger, is a institutional project, and is not in the heart of a dense row-house neighborhood and the project did not reach consensus. There is, in fact no comparison. Shame on both of you!

On the other hand, the audience was not buying it and stood their ground with smart and probing questions and comments.

Return to Saint Mary's Zoning Page