Twelve new twin homes with a projected base price of $289,000 are planned for construction in the Holme Circle area, but some neighbors don’t see the value in the pricey residences. They insist that a centuries-old stone farmhouse is a better fit for the community.
During the monthly meeting of the Holme Circle Civic Association on April 24 at St. Jerome School, developer Charles Calvanese told residents about his company’s plan for 2976 Welsh Road. The site is commonly known as the “Stokes House” because of the farmhouse’s longtime resident family. Calvanese and business partner John Parsons bought the property for $200,000 in September 2011 from Samuel “Buzz” Stokes shortly after Stokes, the brother-in-law and one-time aide to former state House Speaker John Perzel, pleaded guilty to criminal charges stemming from the attorney general’s “Bonusgate” political corruption investigation.
Calvanese and Parsons, through their company Olivia Associates, plan to subdivide the one-acre lot and build six sets of twins, including three sets along Welsh Road and three along Walnut Hill Street. The project conforms to existing zoning regulations for the property, according to Calvanese. Work is contingent upon the Philadelphia Water Department’s approval of the builders’ stormwater management plan.
That news was not what some neighbors wanted to hear. For months, they’ve been trying to persuade the owners to preserve the house as a historic building. UHCA President Elsie Stevens, members of the Northeast History Network and others believe that the residence dates to the 1800s and reflects the early character of the community before mass development. They contend that a Civil War officer once lived there, as did other notable figures. They also believe that the land may contain buried artifacts dating to the 1700s, before the farmhouse was built.
Some neighbors also fear that the project will escalate existing problems for the block, including traffic congestion and poor water drainage. One man insisted to Calvanese that the block will need bigger public water mains to accommodate the new homes. A woman said that nearby streets already are packed with traffic that poses a safety risk to local children.
The neighborhood has a mixture of residences including singles, twins and apartment buildings, but twins are the most prevalent variety on the affected block and neighboring blocks.
Calvanese said his company has no intention of preserving the farmhouse intact but offered to work with a committee of neighbors to salvage artifacts from the house or land that might be of historical interest.
On an unrelated agenda topic, eight political candidates and three aides took part in the civic association’s candidates forum. Democrat gubernatorial hopeful Katie McGinty highlighted her Northeast Philly roots and her environmental work in the administrations of President Bill Clinton and Gov. Ed Rendell. McGinty graduated from Resurrection of Our Lord and St. Hubert before earning an undergraduate degree at St. Joseph’s University. She lives in the Wayne area.
Meanwhile, Pat Parkinson, the Democratic leader of the 57th Ward, touted Allyson Schwartz for governor. He reminded the St. Jerome crowd that Schwartz has served the community in Congress for a decade and was a state senator before that.
The race for Pennsylvania’s 13th Congressional District seat also took the spotlight, as Dan Lodise spoke on behalf of state Rep. Brendan Boyle, while state Sen. Daylin Leach and Dr. Val Arkoosh also addressed the crowd. All three seek the Democratic nomination. Lodise highlighted Boyle as the only candidate who lives in the Northeast. Slightly more than half of the 13th is in the Northeast, while the remainder is in Montgomery County.
Another congressional hopeful, retired Air Force Col. Beverly Plosa-Bowser, reminded meeting-goers that she is one of two Republicans vying for a spot on the general election ballot. Her primary opponent, Huntingdon Valley pool business owner Dee Adcock, also addressed the crowd.
Alan Kushner spoke on behalf of state Sen. Mike Stack, who is running for lieutenant governor. Stack has served 13 years in the Senate. He is pro-choice while supporting the creation of a state healthcare exchange under Obamacare, the expansion of Medicaid, stronger gun control, marriage equality, union labor and pension security.
State Rep. Ed Neilson is the Democratic nominee in the special election for an at-large City Council seat. While he is a prohibitive favorite due to his party’s enormous registration advantage citywide, he reminded folks that any registered voter can vote for him in the special election, including independents, although voters will be limited to candidates of their own parties in the simultaneous primary. Providing he wins the special election, Neilson will have to run again in next year’s primary.
State Rep. John Sabatina informed the crowd that he is running unopposed in the Democratic primary for the area’s state House seat. Due to statewide redistricting, Sabatina appeared destined for a clash with Neilson for a single available seat. But Neilson accepted the party’s nomination for the vacant City Council seat and is not seeking re-election to the House. ••