Zoning woes and why you should attend the Philadelphia City Planning Commissions’ Chelten Avenue Corridor Plan meeting

By Emaleigh | I’ve been learning a lot about the exciting world of zoning and development in Philadelphia simply by following the big debate surrounding the Chelten Plaza project in Germantown these past few months, padded by the zoning crash course I received in my Citizens Planning Institute classes, a program run by the Philadelphia City Planning Commission (PCPC). I’ll be honest and say that everything I’ve learned about the zoning laws currently on the books, what it takes to get rules changed (sometimes fairly, sometimes not) and the whole zoning circus has left me a little jaded. It often seems like you can basically do whatever you want if you have money and a lawyer. I guess I should have known that already, right? Articles like this one in the Philadelphia Inquirer detailing how members of City Council completely circumvent the process don’t help. It’s true, reform is on the horizon. Philadelphians are expecting to see major zoning code reform with the adoption of the Zoning Code Commissions new rule book (and you can read about that here), a important next step in dealing with zoning issues in Philadelphia. This rule book is slated to be voted on by the current Council members in mid-December so we’ll see what happens there considering.

The system may be broken, but that doesn’t mean we all shouldn’t be paying attention anyway. Germantown needs a strategic development plan, or developers will continue to walk all over neighborhood and erect whatever they want without input from citizens and neighborhood leaders.

Germantown has seen some major changes in the past few years and there are lots of reasons for that. Three years ago, W Rockland Street alone seemed to have changed entirely (again). The New York Times took note with Germantown’s story playing a key point of the discussion in an article about the shrinking middle class: Middle-Class Areas Shrink as Income Gap Grows, New Report Finds

All this is to say, if you live in Germantown, you need to attend PCPC’s meeting about developing a Chelten Avenue Corridor Plan. If you don’t shop at the retail establishments on Chelten Avenue, don’t be deterred. That is the point of a meeting like this. Developing a plan, based on input from the community, is about generating a future vision of the corridor. Your opinion matters. If you don’t participate, don’t be surprised when the plan that unfolds isn’t one that you like…

Reporter Amy Z. Quinn with PlanPhilly and WHYY’s Newsworks interviewed PCPC’s Matt Wysong about the intent of the plan. “We’re very much committed to one Germantown here,” Wysong said in the interview. “We recognize that different parts of [the neighborhood] are inherently different, and a lot of the community sees it that way, but we’re trying to take a unifying effort to it.” He’s right. A bunch of people that can’t or won’t talk to each other will not accomplish a thing.

CHELTEN AVENUE CORRIDOR PLAN

Two Opportunities to Share Your Opinion:
Monday, November 21st First Presbyterian Church 35 West Chelten Avenue 7 to 8.30 pm AND Tuesday, November 22nd Germantown YMCA 5722 Greene Street 7 to 8.30 pm

The Philadelphia City Planning Commission is currently developing a Chelten Avenue Corridor Plan. This plan will help guide future improvements within this commercial district. We welcome all citizens of Germantown to attend these meetings so that they may help inform the contents of this plan. Both meetings will have the same format, so it is only necessary to attend one.

You may provide additional input by completing a short online survey @ www.surveymonkey.com/s/Q9QD6WX

Contact: Matt Wysong, matt.wysong@phila.gov, 215-683-4650
www.phila2035.org | www.philaplanning.org

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