Northeast Times

Bustleton group backs Evans Street variance

A plan to build a couple of houses on an Evans Street prop­erty where just one now stands got the back­ing of Great­er Bustleton Civic League mem­bers last week. However, it was far from un­an­im­ous sup­port, and the prop­erty’s own­ers still need an OK from the city’s Zon­ing Board of Ad­just­ment.

Emilio Di­Cicco and Vin­cenzo Ciocca want to raze a small brick house at 9615 Evans St. and build two homes that they’ll sell for more than $400,000 each. The cur­rent struc­ture sits on a lot that has 105 feet of front­age on Evans. Each house the part­ners want to build will have front­ages of 50 feet, and they want to cede 5 feet to an ad­join­ing prop­erty owned by Ciocca’s fam­ily. Since the neigh­bor­hood’s zon­ing re­quires 65 feet, the build­ers need a vari­ance from the zon­ing board.

They’ll now go be­fore the zon­ers with the civic league’s sup­port, and, al­though that strengthens their po­s­i­tion, it doesn’t guar­an­tee the vari­ance will be gran­ted. The build­ers’ zon­ing hear­ing is set for 2 p.m. on Wed­nes­day, Jan. 22, on the 18th floor of 1515 Arch St.

League mem­bers voted 18-13 to back the build­ers’ vari­ance ap­plic­a­tion on Dec. 18 after long, and some­times sharp, de­bate dur­ing the group’s meet­ing at the Amer­ic­an Her­it­age Fed­er­al Cred­it Uni­on on Red Li­on Road.

There was de­bate, too, when the build­ers brought their plan be­fore league mem­bers dur­ing their Novem­ber ses­sion. The build­ers agreed to meet with the league’s board and with neigh­bors be­fore last week’s meet­ing.

Their at­tor­ney, Dawn Tan­credi, said the part­ners have mod­i­fied their plans. For ex­ample, the height of the houses will be lowered from 38 to 30 feet.

However, sev­er­al neigh­bors said they didn’t think the league should back the vari­ance re­quest be­cause it would set a pre­ced­ent and lead to oth­er de­velopers seek­ing to build homes with nar­row­er front­ages.

“I moved in here for trees and the el­bow room,” one neigh­bor said. 

Oth­er neigh­bors said they felt the two new houses would be out of char­ac­ter with the neigh­bor­hood. One char­ac­ter­ized them as row houses with a hole between them.

But oth­er res­id­ents stood up for the build­ers, with one wo­man say­ing, “These boys have done something good for this neigh­bor­hood … they’re try­ing to make things look bet­ter.”

An­oth­er sup­port­er said that neigh­bor­hood prop­erty val­ues are go­ing down, not up, and that the new homes even­tu­ally would pay a lot of real es­tate taxes to the city. Ciocca said that by put­ting two houses where there is now one, neigh­bor­hood prop­erty val­ues would rise.

Be­fore a vote was taken on a mo­tion to sup­port the build­ers’ vari­ance ap­plic­a­tion, Carl Ja­dach, the league’s zon­ing of­ficer, said that any­one who dis­agreed with the mem­ber­ship’s de­cision could go to the zon­ing board on their own to voice their opin­ions.

STILL FIGHT­ING

More than a year ago, league mem­bers over­whelm­ingly had op­posed a vari­ance that would have al­lowed a man­u­fac­tur­ing busi­ness to op­er­ate out of a house on the 9900 block of Hal­de­man Av­en­ue, but the zon­ing board gave its OK for a three-year tem­por­ary vari­ance.

League mem­bers de­cided to fight the ZBA de­cision and won a court de­cision that forced the zon­ers to re­hear the ap­plic­a­tion be­cause the own­er had not proved that he couldn’t use the house for any­thing but his dent­al im­plant man­u­fac­tur­ing busi­ness.

“They have to prove the prop­erty isn’t fit for the use that it’s zoned for,” said Joseph Guerra, the league’s at­tor­ney.

Jack O’Hara, league pres­id­ent, en­cour­aged mem­bers to at­tend the new ZBA hear­ing at 2 p.m. on Wed­nes­day, Jan. 15, on the 18th floor of 1515 Arch St.

“We’ll let you know the out­come,” O’Hara told mem­bers.

O’Hara also urged mem­bers to sup­port the loc­al youth sports or­gan­iz­a­tion the Bustleton Bengals, which is hav­ing a fun­draiser March 7 at the FOP hall on Car­oline Road. He said the Bengals are near­ing their goal of $1.35 mil­lion to build a gym.

Mem­bers gave rounds of ap­plause to Anne Maria Boyle and Bill Ra­pone, aides to City Coun­cil­man Bri­an O’Neill (R-10th dist.), and thanked them for their years of ser­vice. Boye and Ra­pone are re­tir­ing in Janu­ary. They reg­u­larly at­tend civic as­so­ci­ation meet­ings. They re­port neigh­bor­hood con­cerns to O’Neill and work on get­ting city agen­cies to ad­dress those con­cerns as well as help­ing count­less con­stitu­ents who call or come to the coun­cil­man’s of­fices for help.

“I hope I rep­res­en­ted the coun­cil­man well,” Boyle said after O’Hara presen­ted her with a bou­quet of flowers.

The league’s next meet­ing will be 7 p.m. on Wed­nes­day, Jan. 22, 2014, at the Amer­ic­an Her­it­age Fed­er­al Cred­it Uni­on’s Car­riage House on Red Li­on Road. ••

You can reach at jloftus@bsmphilly.com.

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