Did you that Konrad Square – the wide-open green park in Fishtown – is actually zoned for industrial use?
That’s just one of many out-of-date classifications in the zoning of the Fishtown neighborhood.
At a meeting held by the Fishtown Neighbors Association last week, neighbors got a chance to draw their input right onto a zoning map of the neighborhood, so that Fishtown’s zoning can soon match the actual uses happening on the street.
City planners Paula Brumbelow and David Fecteau attended this preliminary meeting, and will return in about two months for a second one to get even more input.
“Tell me where we match, where we don’t, and how we can improve,” Brumbelow told the audience, before handing out markers and inviting them to draw on the maps.
Neighbors marked vacant lots that were labeled as residential, and vice versa; they marked multi-family dwellings where zoning only lists single-family; they wrote where businesses were located on blocks listed as residential, and wrote notes on the side of the map.
“The point of remapping is to ultimately streamline the process, so the zoning reflects what the parts of the neighborhood are actually used for,” said FNA board member Isaac Slepner.
As Matt Karp, chair of the FNA’s zoning committee pointed out, sections of Allen Street, Leopard Street and Delaware Avenue in Fishtown are zoned industrial, even though they’re not being put to industrial use any longer.
Port Richmond Village, the shopping center on Aramingo Avenue on the border of Fishtown, is also zoned industrial. Every time a new business wants to open in the center, they must get a variance from the city’s Zoning Board of Adjustment for commercial use, even though the entire area is currently exclusively used for commercial purposes.
“Going to the ZBA is not an inexpensive proposition,” Brumbelow pointed out. “A developer may have to do all his engineering work and go to the ZBA just to be told no.”
Frankford Avenue varies between mixed commercial-residential and exclusively residential uses. East Girard is mostly zoned mixed commercial-residential, with some exclusively commercial spots.
In part due to the disconnect in Fishtown’s zoning and the actual uses in the neighborhood, the FNA Zoning Committee gets many applications for variances, according to Slepner.
“We’re backed up through to the end of November,” he said.
Many residents at the meeting said they walked away satisfied.
“I got my questions answered,” said a resident of Fishtown for 47 years who declined to give her name. “The only thing I’m afraid of is the old neighborhood being squeezed out for more commercial uses.” ••
Do you have opinions on remapping Fishtown’s zoning? You can email your thoughts to city planner Paula Brumbelow at email@example.com.