September CDAG Board Meeting
Thursday, September 12, 6:00PM
Society Hill Towers Community Room
285 St. James Place
6:00: Call to order and approval of prior meeting minutes
Motion to approve. Seconded.
6:05: Officer Reports.
6:15: Update: Columbus Blvd. and Tasker Avenue WAWA gas station.
Summary. The site between Reed and Tasker on the river side of Columbus Avenue is owned by Tower Investments. Tower sub-dived the site and sold the eastern side to US Construction. A supermarket is planned for the northeast quadrant. In the southwest quadrant, Tower wants to build a Super WAWA with gas pumps and they have submitted an application to the ZBA. Years ago, Blatstein withdrew a zoning variance appeal for the WAWA project, and now the application is back.
The southwest quadrant has been further subdivided into multiple parcels. One of the parcels is a narrow strip that only touches Columbus Avenue. There is a second strip with frontage on Tasker Street. In the zoning application, the gas station fronts Tasker. Under the CDO, vehicle service is not allowed on Columbus Boulevard or river access streets. Since the gas station now fronts Tasker, which was not a river access street at the time the application was submitted. The plot is CMX3. Gas stations are allowed in CMX3 by Special Exception, which is a lower bar of difficulty than a variance. With a Special Exception, the burden of proof is on any one who opposes the use to demonstrate why that use will be more detrimental to the community than the use might be in another location.
In February, Councilman Squilla separated the river access street legislation from the CDO and put that legislation through and it was recommended favorably out of committee. By the Doctrine of Pending legislation once something is out of Committee L&I treats it as if it were law. Tower Investments’ attorney submitted the zoning application five days before the legislation became Pending Legislation. L&I responded to the application by informing Tower that the application is not complete. L&I issued a Referral. Pennsport and DRWC argued for a Refusal because the use is not permitted under the Overlay. L&I revoked the Referral (which triggers a Special Exception) and issued a Refusal (which requires a zoning variance). Tower’s attorney appealed the Refusal arguing that when they applied Tasker was not a River Access street. L&I did not accept the argument because the initial application was not complete.
While the plan indicates that the gas station will front Tasker, Tower has an easement on the Columbus Avenue strip of land and that easement will allow cars to enter the gas station from Columbus Avenue.
The ZBA hearing is scheduled for September 25 at 2 pm. If they don’t win they may go to court to fight.
Pat Maurice, President of Pennsport: Provided a summary of the Pennsport Civic public meeting with Tower Investment. Tower believes that making Tasker a river access street is designed to foil them. If Tower prevails they will have effectively neutralized Tasker as a river access street, ruining a walkable waterfront for Pennsport. The Pennsport neighbors asked the Tower attorney why they deserve a Special Exemption. Tower’s lawyer said they deserve a Referral because a gas station fits the character of the neighborhood, and the crowd laughed at the lawyer. Pennsport Civic believes the shape of the parcels is designed to circumvent the Overlay. DRWC has over 500 emails expressing that the neighborhood does not want the WAWA gas station in this parcel. A walkable waterfront will be ruined by this gas station. Tower gave no examples of alternative uses that are not automotive-centric. WAWA has not responded to Pat’s emails. There may be sixteen pumps, including diesel, and buried tanks. The site is not in the flood plain.* Pennsport had an independent traffic study.
Joe Forkin, President of DRWC: WAWA had a marketing agency find the land for the Super WAWA. WAWA puts the burden of achieving community support and approvals on the developer. WAWA is looking for sites along the waterfront. They are planning a super WAWA on Packer Avenue, which is not covered by the Overlay.
Councilman Squilla is against the Super WAWA. If we lose in court, Pennsport and CDAG may need to hire one or more attorneys to defend the CDO. Joe Forkin agreed that DRWC will offer financial assistance if legal expertise is required. DRWC owns land adjacent to the parcel.
CDAG delegates who are available for the September 25th hearing should attend.
NOTE: Gas stations will not be allowed on the Delaware River waterfront under the amended CDO.
MOTION TO REAFFIRM OPPOSITION TO SUPER WAWA:
6:46: Update: PECO Power Station Site
There is a new plan for the existing structure, which includes opening up Columbia Avenue to the waterfront. The building is on the National Register of Historic Places, and the National Park Service is now involved in the planning process. The new plan includes 240 residential units, an event space, and Joe Volpe’s office. The next public meeting does not have a date.
6:50: Update: CDO Legislation
Councilman Squilla is out of the country and will be back on the 24th. Matt assumes there will be one more stakeholder meeting in October. Councilman Squilla wants to complete the CDO amendment by the end of the year.
7:00: Old Business
The Vine Street archaeological digs were well run by DRWC, AECOM and Durst. Durst is offering assurances that they will respect the archeology.
7:10: New Business
We need a new post office box. Samatha Safara collects the mail and she will select the location of the PO Box.
DRWC released bids for a trail from Washington to Spring Garden, which will involve substantial reconstruction of the east side of Columbus Boulevard. The work will be timed to coincide with planned PennDot repaving of Columbus Boulevard between Washington and Spring Garden. They are in the process of hiring a contractor and an owner’s representative. The construction will take 18 months and will result in a clear separation of modes of travel.
Waterfront Arts Program is launching their inaugural exhibit Oct 4–Nov 3, Wed–Sun. 7–10 pm. The GHOST SHIP is a holographic image sprayed on a water screen under the Ben Franklin Bridge. A Romanian artistic collective is responsible for the installation.
There will be a public meeting on October 17 (tentative date) for Penn DOT and DRWC to announce the wrap-up of preliminary engineering for the CAP. The engineering firm is doing innovative things to keep the cap as thin as possible while still supporting troughs for trees.
In the fall, to coincide with the Penn DOT CAP meeting, DRWC will put the sites adjacent to the CAP (Market to Chestnut, and the terminus of Spruce Street Harbor Park to the Chart House) out to public solicitation for private development. There will be public outreach.
Graffiti Pier is being designed by Studio Zewde. They LA’s and Urban Designers with a facility for community outreach. There will be a public event this fall to kick-off the project.
Olin Partnership was selected to design The Wetlands Park, behind Walmart. The project will include wetlands recreation and serve as a model for transforming other industrial sites with bulkhead edges. We can expect innovative and significant improvements to the ecological health of the river. Community outreach will begin this fall.
Festival Pier is under construction. Contractors are working on pier stabilization and removal of structures that are not viable. The site will change from eleven to nine acres. The contractors are working on the incinerator site now. There are nine months left for them to come up with a new plan. The development group is a joint venture between Haverford Properties and Jefferson Apartment Group. The RFP called for mid-rise residential with a view corridor to Spring Garden.
7:20: MOTION TO ADJOURN. SECONDED.
*Technical Amendment. There is not a consensus about the status of the land and the site may, in fact, be in the flood plain.