Fishtown neighbors get a zoning earful

The group's latest meet­ing helped cla­ri­fy neigh­bors' con­cerns re­gard­ing the city's zon­ing changes.

In Au­gust, the first up­date of the city’s zon­ing code in more than 50 years went in­to ef­fect. Ex­ist­ing zon­ing won’t be changed ret­ro­act­ively, but new de­vel­op­ments will face new reg­u­la­tions, such as park­ing-space re­quire­ments for res­taur­ants that at­tract large amounts of people.

City plan­ner Dav­id Fecteau ex­plained to 40 mem­bers of the Fishtown Neigh­bors As­so­ci­ation at their meet­ing Thursday how the changes to zon­ing code would af­fect the com­munity.

Per­haps the most not­able change, said Fecteau, is that, for the first time, civic groups like the FNA are writ­ten in­to the code.

“Noth­ing in the pre­vi­ous code com­pels de­velopers to vis­it civic groups,” Fecteau ex­plained. “Now, they’ve got to meet with you for zon­ing vari­ances.”

One con­cern voiced by neigh­bors was about park­ing re­quire­ments, with one mem­ber ask­ing wheth­er a single-fam­ily home could con­struct a street-level gar­age. It all de­pends on the unique zon­ing of that home’s land, Fecteau ex­plained, which in Fishtown, can range between Res­id­en­tial Single-Fam­ily, Res­id­en­tial Multi-Fam­ily and Res­id­en­tial Mixed-Use.

“Your prop­erty is still your prop­erty,” Fecteau said. “But we have to put something in place so that every­body isn’t set against every­body else.”

The new zon­ing code fea­tures an­oth­er new type of dis­trict, IRMX, or In­dus­tri­al-Res­id­en­tial Mix, which would al­low for artists’ loft-style homes in in­dus­tri­al struc­tures. While no such res­id­ences yet ex­ist, it opens up a prom­ising new av­en­ue of po­ten­tial homes in Phil­adelphia.

“It isn’t ‘mapped’ yet,” Fecteau told Star via email. “It doesn’t ex­ist on the city’s zon­ing maps.  If a prop­erty own­er or civic group would like to see that dis­trict placed on cer­tain blocks or prop­er­ties, they need to re­quest a bill from City Coun­cil.”

Fecteau also said that park­ing re­quire­ments won’t af­fect the small busi­ness pop­u­lar in Fishtown, but are ne­ces­sary as part of mak­ing sure that busi­nesses which do at­tract large num­bers of people to the area also bring the ne­ces­sary park­ing spaces.

“If you’re go­ing from a cof­fee shop to an ice cream shop, it’s not a change in park­ing,” he said.

Ad­di­tion­ally, the code fea­tures a new cat­egory of res­taur­ant – “pre­pared foods res­taur­ant,” which ap­plies to sand­wich shops, del­is, ice cream stores, and cof­fee shops, and ex­empts them from some re­quire­ments that sit-down res­taur­ants face.

An of­fi­cial “remap­ping” of Fishtown, which would in­volve the city tak­ing a hard look at the ac­tu­al use of the struc­tures in the neigh­bor­hood and then re-eval­u­at­ing their zon­ing status, won’t take place un­til next year, per­haps later, Fecteau said. When it does hap­pen, it will in­clude all of the sur­round­ing neigh­bor­hoods in the River Wards.

The city’s zon­ing map is avail­able on­line at

Oth­er top­ics covered at the meet­ing in­cluded re­cent crime stat­ist­ics. Of 35 lis­ted in­cid­ents between Nov. 1 and Nov. 12 in the Phil­adelphia Po­lice De­part­ment’s 26th Dis­trict, which in­cludes Fishtown, car break-ins and auto theft were 25 of them.

“Park smart and be safe,” sug­ges­ted FNA board mem­ber Neil Brech­er.

The FNA was de­scribed as be­ing in sound fisc­al con­di­tion by treas­urer Kate Mick­low. She con­firmed that the FNA re­ceived about $6,000 in dona­tions dur­ing Oc­to­ber’s River City Fest­iv­al, of which Star was a spon­sor.

That money is go­ing right back in­to the com­munity. FNA has sponsored 10 Thanks­giv­ing bas­kets, each of which in­cludes a tur­key, for fam­il­ies at Luther­an Set­tle­ment House.

FNA is hold­ing a hol­i­day party next month on Dec. 20 and next year, it will be or­gan­iz­ing the third an­nu­al FNA Chili Cook-off.

Re­port­er Sam Ne­w­house can be reached at 215-354-3124 or at sne­w­

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