Holme Circle discusses zoning issues and traffic

Two im­me­di­ate neigh­bor­hood prob­lems — a rash of burg­lar­ies and traffic snarls around the Holme Av­en­ue bridge re­con­struc­tion — dom­in­ated dis­cus­sion at the May 25 meet­ing of the Holme Circle Civic As­so­ci­ation.

But neigh­bors also learned of a loom­ing, broad­er is­sue that could one day change the way that prop­erty own­ers across the city are per­mit­ted to use their homes.

Eva Glad­stein, ex­ec­ut­ive dir­ect­or of the city’s ad hoc Zon­ing Code Com­mis­sion, told res­id­ents of sev­er­al key ele­ments in­cor­por­ated in­to the com­mis­sion’s pro­posed new zon­ing code.

Some ele­ments of the pro­posed code, par­tic­u­larly those that would ex­pand al­low­able uses of res­id­en­tial prop­er­ties, have some Coun­cil mem­bers, in­clud­ing Bri­an O’Neill of the Far North­east’s 10th dis­trict, wav­ing red flags. Dur­ing Holme Circle’s meet­ing, O’Neill’s le­gis­lat­ive aide, Bob Barilli, told neigh­bors about some spe­cif­ic con­cerns.

The Zon­ing Code Com­mis­sion has pro­posed al­low­ing a mul­ti­tude of new small-busi­ness-re­lated uses in­to homes as a mat­ter of right or with a less­er stand­ard of reg­u­la­tion, ac­cord­ing to Barilli.

That is, if the pro­posed code changes were rat­i­fied, a homeown­er wish­ing to open any of nu­mer­ous small busi­nesses in his res­id­ence no longer would have to seek a zon­ing vari­ance from the city’s Zon­ing Board of Ad­just­ment. Rather, the ap­plic­ant would need only a cer­ti­fic­ate of use from the ZBA, and neigh­bors op­pos­ing the busi­ness use would face a heav­ier bur­den in fight­ing it.

O’Neill, who is a mem­ber of the Zon­ing Code Com­mis­sion, had re­com­men­ded to that body that it elim­in­ate use vari­ances from the new code al­to­geth­er, much like oth­er cit­ies have already done. In­stead, ac­cord­ing to Barilli, the com­mis­sion’s pro­posed code, if rat­i­fied, would make it easi­er for res­id­ents to con­duct busi­nesses at home.

Glad­stein ex­plained that the pro­posed code would em­ploy nu­mer­ous re­stric­tions on home-based busi­nesses to min­im­ize the im­pact on sur­round­ing neigh­bor­hoods. There would be lim­it­a­tions on the num­ber of on-site em­ploy­ees, vis­it­ors, park­ing spaces and pickups or de­liv­er­ies.

Yet, Barilli ar­gued, the pro­posed code of­fers little or noth­ing to fa­cil­it­ate en­force­ment of home-based busi­nesses, such as fund­ing of more city in­spect­ors.

Glad­stein said that the Zon­ing Code Com­mis­sion will con­tin­ue to so­li­cit and col­lect pub­lic feed­back on the pro­posed code throughout the City Coun­cil hear­ing pro­cess.

To learn more about pro­posed changes in the city’s zon­ing code, vis­it www.zon­ing­mat­ters.org

Also at the May 25 meet­ing, sev­er­al res­id­ents of Holme Av­en­ue com­plained about traffic prob­lems con­nec­ted with the on­go­ing bridge re­con­struc­tion between Long­ford and Ar­thur streets.

The four-lane av­en­ue nar­rows to one lane in each dir­ec­tion in the con­struc­tion zone. Res­id­ents who live at the con­struc­tion zone com­plained of speed­ing cars and mo­tor­ists us­ing cut-through routes, in­clud­ing side streets and com­mon drive­ways, to avoid the bot­tle­neck.

A pro­ject man­ager from the Pennsylvania De­part­ment of Trans­port­a­tion told res­id­ents that traffic bar­ri­ers and speed-de­tect­ing devices have been used in the zone to con­trol vehicles, but clos­ing the av­en­ue is not an op­tion due to traffic volume.

At a pre­vi­ous HCCA meet­ing, the gen­er­al con­tract­or on the pro­ject re­por­ted that the state con­tract calls for PennDOT to provide fund­ing for hir­ing ex­tra po­lice to sit at the con­struc­tion zone if needed.

But last week, the PennDOT of­fi­cial said that the state agency would be able to fund ex­tra po­lice only for “a day or two.” Work is ex­pec­ted to con­tin­ue through sum­mer 2012.

On the burg­lary front, HCCA board mem­ber Joe Raz­ler re­por­ted that Capt. De­borah Kelly of the 8th Po­lice Dis­trict had no­ti­fied him about an in­crease in res­id­en­tial break-ins in the area.

The cap­tain ad­vised that res­id­ents keep their doors and win­dows locked to pre­vent easy ac­cess to their homes, Raz­ler said. Res­id­ents also should keep an eye on oth­er homes on their blocks. If they see something sus­pi­cious, they should re­port it to po­lice via 911.

The next Holme Circle Civic As­so­ci­ation meet­ing will be Wed­nes­day, Sept. 21, at 7 p.m., at St. Jerome School, Stam­ford and Col­fax streets. ••

You can reach at wkenny@bsmphilly.com.

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