Council, Mayor Agree On Rules To Make Philly Developer-Friendly

A City Council committee on Friday moved forward a bill that would make Philadelphia more developer-friendly, and another to force earlier disclosure of money spent by super PACs during elections.

The development bill progressed after months of wrangling. If approved by Council and later by voters, it would create a cabinet-level department to take over functions now handled by a host of bodies that include the Planning Commission, Historical Commission, Housing Authority, Art Commission, and Zoning Board of Adjustment.

Council President Darrell L. Clarke, who introduced the legislation in September, said the new Department of Planning and Development would create efficiencies. During Friday’s hearing, he called the long revision process well worth it.

“It gave us an opportunity to not only come up with what I believe is personally a pretty good conclusion, but it gave us the ability to understand that this is going to be a working document,” he said.


Fishtown Baseball Factory To Become 30 Homes

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Philadelphia ...

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Philadelphia County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Zoning Board of Adjustment voted Wednesday to grant a handful of variances to Domani Developers, which is planning to convert a former baseball factory at 1701 Tulip Street in Fishtown into a 30-unit apartment complex. (Yes, that’s an empty factory that used to make baseballs: the A.J. Reach sporting goods company.)

The building has been vacant since 2004, according to developer Roland Kassis, and he was unable to find a viable industrial use for the property, which is zoned I-2.  Kassis said that the city in general and Fishtown in particular have seen a growing demand for small, one- and two-bedroom apartments, which is what he intends to put in the building.  According to the zoning application, the developer intends to build a fifth-story addition, roof deck space, and a canopy over the first floor.

The project, designed by architects at Cecil Baker Partners, won the support of the local RCO, Fishtown Neighbors Association, by a vote of 107 to 77.  A quick calculation shows that that is not a unanimous vote, and the reason seems to be parking: the planned apartment complex contains none.


Pottstown Borough Council Meeting: April 11, 2011

Many thanks to Chris Huff for being Roy’s Rants eyes and ears at tonight’s Council meeting and writing up such a thorough report!

Roll Call – All Councilors present

Approval of minutes from last meeting passed.

Newstell Marable was the only public speaker. He urged Council to keep focus on the Ricketts Center. He also reiterated his wish to see Armand Hammer Blvd. change names.

Mayor’s Report – None

Manager’s Report – The Regional Traffic Committee is looking into the timing of the lights at S. Hanover & Industrial Hwy and will be conducting traffic counts along Hanover to judge the traffic impact of the area construction projects. A traffic light will be installed in May for 724 at the 422 ramps. With College Dr. being used at the PennDOT detour for the High St. bridge project, there may be a problem with shutting down College Dr. during the Schuylkill River Festival in October. This is being investigated.

The official FEMA flood plain maps for Pottstown have been changed as part of a major update to the maps. Many parcels are affected, some being removed from the flood zone, others being added. All affected property owners are in the process of being notified. An upcoming public meeting will be held to review and discuss the maps changes with the public.

The First Suburbs meeting is Thursday, April 14th in Audubon. Buses will depart from Borough Hall at 6:30. Anyone wishing to sign-up for a bus seat, contact Borough Hall. Currently, there are 30 people signed up. They would like to have at least 75. They are hoping for a total attendance of 500 at the meeting. Jason said the major push will be for HUD to look at the voucher numbers per specific area and making HUD adopt the same inspection procedure as municipalities follow. (Currently, HUD’s inspection process is sub par to what municipalities have to follow.)

PAID will hold its first public meeting on April 28th at 6:00 p.m. at the Hill School. Everyone is encouraged to attend.

Jason stated one of his goals is to bring the Codes department up to the 21st century in regards to technology. They had explored equipping all Codes vehicles will laptops that interface with the Permit-N-Force software to help them write and track violations right from their vehicles. The quote was roughly $40,000, a large part of that cost being the laptops. Apparently, Goodwill Fire Co. has received a grant to replace all of the mobile laptops in their emergency vehicles. The current laptops are in great shape and are 2 to 3 years old. They are offering to sell what the Borough needs for a nominal fee of $6500. Jason would like this moved to the Finance Committee for discussion.

The County Storm Water Coalition is still moving forward. There is a meeting with DEP this month and they hope to have a final set of rules in place. These new storm water rules will be a tremendous burden for municipalities. The coalition has been successful in holding off the implementation of these rules, but DEP is ready to push back again. There will probably be a public meeting in May to discuss the final changes and timeline regarding this.

Recycling grants have finally been received for 2007, 2008 and 2009. These monies were awarded based on the amount of recycling the Borough does each year. The money will go to the trash fund and will partly be used to restock some recycling bins. The grant amounts were $39,770 for 2007, $49,082 for 2008 and $105,794 for 2009.

They are looking into a joint bid for street sweeping services with West Pottsgrove. They are interested in pricing for a 1x, 2x, 3x and 4x a year service.

Finally, a meeting with PECO was recently held regarding the electrical service issues with the downtown. PECO has identified some problems with 2 of the 3 major feeds into the downtown. They have an action plan in place and will be addressing infrastructure upgrades.

Committee Reports – All were accepted for ones they had, none were read. Two noted items were that an opening exists on PDIDA due to the resignation of Matt Crouse. Blighted Property made mention that there will be a public bus tour of the next set of blighted properties on April 28th at 3:30 from Borough Hall.

Agenda Items – Voted 7-0 to adopt resolution honoring retiree Andrew Madonna

Voted 7-0 to endorse the concept of the Rutgers Urban Planning Design Course for the riverfront area

Voted 7-0 to approve and accept the bid of Lointerhomes, LLC for 426 King and 467 Farmington

Voted 6-0 to adopt a resolution authorizing Goodwill Ambulance as the primary ALS and BLS provider in Pottstown. Councilor Gibson abstained due to being a life member of Goodwill.

Voted 7-0 to increase the review fees for commercial building projects

Voted 7-0 to waive the fees and costs associated with the Memorial Day parade. A very long and ridiculous conversation surrounded this. Same stuff as last year’s conversation. I’m sure it will be the same conversation we’ll endure when the 4th of July committee makes this request in 2 months.

Voted 7-0 to have the Solicitor draft an amendment to the litter ordinance. Councilor Allen spoke up that she thought this could unfairly harm property owners. She requested that the amendment also state that the businesses will held to this same rules and she would like a warning system so property owners aren’t fined right away. Jason said they could write it so that an owner would have 3 to 5 days to correct the issue before the fine applied.

Voted 7-0 to reappoint Rita Paez to the Human Relations Commission for a three year term.

Voted 7-0 to appoint Andrew Monastra to HARB for a five year term

Voted 7-0 to accept the resignation of Dan Schmoyer from Planning Commission

A motion to appoint a new member to the Planning Commission was tabled.

Council took no action (meaning they will not officially endorse or oppose) the zoning appeal for the proposed car wash at 616 King St.

Council voted 7-0 to approve the HARB certificates for the month

Voted 7-0 to pay the monthly bills totaling $2,606,016.34

Announcements – reminder that Community Clean-Up Day is Saturday, April 30th from 8 til noon. Start at Borough Hall or Empire Fire Co.

Meeting adjourned.