September, 2019 Minutes

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.


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.


*Technical Amendment. There is not a consensus about the status of the land and the site may, in fact, be in the flood plain.

August, 2019 Minutes

August CDAG Board Meeting
Thursday, August 8, 6:00 PM
Society Hill Towers Community Room
285 St. James Place

6:00: Call to Order and Approval of Prior Meeting Minutes.
Motion to delay the minutes. Approved unanimously.

6:05: Officer Reports

  • Chair: North trail and South trails are wrapping up soon. The Central Trail, on road trail, will go out to bid in the fall. The RFP will be posted on DRWC website in the fall.
  • Penn’s Landing CAP is moving into final design. There will be a public engagement process.
  • Vine Street property archaeology public tours occurred. There will be another public tour. Tours display AECOM due diligence work.

6:15: CDO Legislation Update. Stakeholder meeting with Councilman Squilla. Also, in attendance: Planning commission staff, the attorney and architect for K4-Peter Kelson who represents the Durst Corporation; Karen Thompson—DRWC; George Claflin—DAG. James Templeton, Samantha Safara, Matt Ruben and Joe Schiavo were all present.

  • There is a new draft of the CDO, which will be distributed to CDAG. 
    The current overlay will be altered to enable Option B— a voluntary and optional tract. If selected, developers will be legally required to comply with the Option B tract. There is speculation that developers may not use Option B because a FAR bonus may not be needed, but the rep from Durst disagreed. Option B does not affect projects that don’t seek a height bonus.  Option B gives the Planning Commission binding authority over the developer. Option B applies to CMX 3, 4 and 5, which are governed by FAR rather than height limits. The Planning Commission must certify to LI that the requirements have been fulfilled, and that all proposed facades are in harmony with the intentions of the CDO. High profile projects will make use of Option B. In exchange for entering into Option B developers are not governed by height limits but by FAR. Once a developer has a building permit and a project breaks ground they are not able to leave the optional tract.
  • The base height limit in the main overlay will be reduced from 100 ‘ to 84’. Because of building codes and the economics of building, including structural steel and sprinklers, it is not practical to build higher than 84’ before costs leap frog. The maximum height bonus will be changed from 144’ (224’ max) to 156’ (240’ max). To reach that height bonus you must provide more amenities.
  • Form and Design Guidelines are proposed in the base overlay and are meant to disincentivize townhouse development that is not consistent with the Master Plan. 
  1. No portion of any building can be located less than 35’ from the other.No portion of any building can be located less than 35’ from the other.
  2. The length of the side of the building that parallels Delaware Avenue shall not exceed 200’
  1. There must be a minimum of 50’ between ground floor primary entrances for household living uses on the same lot.3.
  • It is proposed that single family homes do not count as an active use. There is an addition of requirement for entrances on Columbus and the riverfront side. Building permit applications at L&I do not regulate entrance locations. 
  • DAG drafted CDO Design Guideline Recommendations for revisions to the CDO and the Planning Commission was receptive to the spirit and the content of the document. 
  • DAG architects are surprised by the lack of interest in the development community to marine uses. There is a marine use bonus in the overlay, but it is not generous enough to generate interest. Marine uses are exorbitant. 
  • Matt will draft a letter expressing concern about connector streets being taken from the CDO. Main overlay will add six river access streets to the CDO. There is interest in adding Beech Street to the CDO.

6:40: Update on PECO Power Station site development.

There is a screening meeting for the stakeholders, which will be held Tuesday at 6 pm. All the entertainment uses are being taken out except for the event space. 210 residential units are being added.

7:15: Motion to Adjourn. Approved.

July, 2019 Minutes

July CDAG Board Meeting
Thursday, July 11, 2019
Society Hill Towers Community Room
85 Saint James Place

6:00 pm: Call to Order
6:10 pm
Central Delaware Overlay Update presentation— 
Ian Litwan from Planning Commission: New proposed changes to Base/CDO                                                                                                                                                

  • Uses — Prohibit auto-related uses (such as gas stations) everywhere in the /CDO, except within certain industrial zones.
  • Ground Floor Uses — Remove ‘residences’ from list of permitted ground floor uses. Change 75% requirement to a flexible scale to limit residential ground floor frontage to provide active uses.
  • Height Limits — Current limit of 100’ does not correlate well with building practices. Recommendation is to lower base height limit while allowing for more bonus height. This slightly reduces overall allowable height.
  • Gross Floor Area (GFA) — On lots within the Special Flood Hazard Area, mechanical equipment areas above the ground floor may be excluded from GFA and floor area ratio (FAR) calculations.
  • Form & Design – add building width and spacing controls, add 50’ spacing requirement for primary residential entries
  • Height and Density Bonuses— lower bonus for retail space from 48’ to 24’, increase max bonus for open space from 24’ to 48’, add new bonus for stormwater management (up to 48’), remove 3-acre lot size, remove limit on FAR bonuses within /CDO
  • Proposed Optional Approval Path— 
    • applies only to CMX-3, 4, 5; applies East of Delaware Ave/Columbus Blvd.; any project that requires a variance is ineligible. 
    • Required public benefits; mixed-income housing, open space, trail connections, stormwater management
    • Waivers; height limits, parking minimums
    • Revised approval process

Opened up to questions from the group. Parking was brought up, Port activity, and I-95 traffic.

Councilman Squilla needs to have a Committee Hearing in order to pass this overlay legislation. Will have another stakeholder meeting and gain consensus.

**Motion authorizing CDAG reps to participate in next stakeholder meeting: Samantha, motion seconded. Vote: 9 for motion passes. 0 abstain, 0 objected

7:14 pm: Anderson/Beach Street site, master plan— Nando gave an overview of this site, by-right, 1134 parking spaces, 248 single houses, townhomes, and 4 apartment buildings facing Beach St., 1 acre park in center, connection to the trail. Review of the plan. 
The “Ask” is — How can their plan be modified to create more of a neighborhood and add value? Orient the buildings to a street, river, city view, etc. 
DAG pointed out that there’s no connection to the waterfront, lack of open space, poor views/orientation. Are supportive if adjustments are made – this can be much better. Need Placemaking. Spacing and Orientation of building frontages makes the differences. This is an inwardly-oriented plan, minimal waterfront connectivity, the rowhome block types are akin to the superblocks of public housing, value of streets and open space is marginal.
DAG and CDAG to sit down with the developer to discuss bettering the design. – DAG to coordinate.

7:37 pm: Old Business
CDAG has gotten push-back on our RCO renewal from Planning Commission. 2 issues: they want us need to provide exact boundaries of the RCO. They are considering us as a coalition. We may not get our RCO designation. 

7:43 pm:  New Business— none

7:46 pm: Adjournment