AAA will take Pennsport auto service center idea to planning commission

Proposed AAA auto entity

Proposed AAA Auto Service Entity

AAA will try to convince the Philadelphia City Planning Commission that its plans for an auto service/repair shop are a good fit for South Columbus Boulevard, even though the city’s long-range plans for the Central Delaware waterfront and the current zoning overlay for the area discourage such uses.

This step – presenting the PCPC with a detailed Plan of Development – is what AAA should have been directed to do after applying for the zoning and affiliated building permit in June 2013. It’s what the interim Delaware River Overlay that was in place at that time called for, but the city’s Department of Licenses & Inspections erroneously awarded the permits over-the-counter. In a late February letter, L&I admitted its mistake and announced it was revoking the permits. L&I took this action after receiving letters and phone calls from city and waterfront planners and advocates and First District Councilman Mark Squilla.

If the PCPC doesn’t support AAA’s plan, AAA could appeal L&I’s revocation of the over-the-counter permits to the Zoning Board of Adjustment.

“We are reaching out to the community and city agencies  to address any confusion or open issues and are optimistic that this will be resolved amicably and to the satisfaction of all parties,” AAA spokeswoman Jenny Robinson said.

As of the close of business Monday, the PCPC had not yet received a plan of development.

The overlay exists to protect the city’s goals for the waterfront, as outlined in the Master Plan for the Central Delaware. These include creating a more walkable waterfront with active, mixed-use development and better ties to city neighborhoods.

Under the POD process, AAA will submit plans to the Planning Commission, which can vote in favor or in opposition. Commissioners will weigh the plan against the interim overlay and the Central Delaware Master Plan to make their decision, but they will have much discretion, since the interim overlay does not explicitly forbid the uses AAA intends at the site. Commissioners are also likely to get input from people other than the applicant.

Pennsport Civic has said it will oppose the project at this location through the duration.

Central Delaware Advocacy Group Chairman Matt Ruben said that he was contacted by AAA’s attorney, and CDAG will be meeting with AAA about the project. CDAG will be reviewing the POD, and evaluating it relative  to the “principles and recommendations of the Master Plan for the Central Delaware.”

CDAG had sent letters about the proposed AAA project to planning and L&I regarding the fact that the interim overlay was not applied before the permit was issued. They did not address the proposed use in their letter.


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