PRESENT: Matt Ruben, President; Don Phillips, Vice-President; Steve Richman, Treasurer; Janet Finegar, Secretary; Rick Angeli; Michael Coyne; Larry Freedman; Lystra Harris; Monika Kreidie; Katrina Mansfield; Sharon Richman; Chris Somers; Anne Waginger; Logan Welde.
The meeting was called to order by the President at 7:07 p.m.
Motion: By Anne Waginger, seconded by Chris Somers:“To approve the minutes of the October Board meeting as presented.” Passed 13-0-0
Katrina raised the question of whether we should print new Annual Appeal brochures. After some discussion, it was agreed that the electronic solicitations are by far the most successful, so we do not need to print more at this time. Rick further suggested that we make a point of sending slightly different messages each time when we send electronic messages. Sending electronic messages only will allow the first appeal to go out within the next two weeks, and will allow the $600 budgeted for printing brochures to be used for the informational brochure we hope to be able to produce early next year.
Monika distributed a calendar of annual NLNA events to encourage the Board to consider what events we most want to put our energy into. Matt pointed out that the calendar allows us to remember pre-scheduling issues (such as trying to avoid conflicts between music fests and Piazza concerts) and also to notice what events are most important to our neighborhood and recognize the efforts of those who make them happen.
Marion Leary has contacted the NLNA about the possibility of organizing the painting of a neighborhood-oriented mural, sponsored by Sink or Swim (her non-profit), on the side of the Community Center building. Questions were raised as to whether there would be any expense to the NLNA for painting or maintaining the mural, but there were no general objections. Matt will pursue the questions with Marion.
Frank Robertson has resigned from the board for personal reasons. The Board thanked Frank for his service and will organize a special election at the next two General Meetings to fill the vacancy.
Melissa Magness visited the meeting to seek Board approval of her joining the Zoning Committee. There was a brief discussion of what circumstances would cause Melissa to need to consider recusing herself because of business relationships between her company and applicants.
Motion: By Anne Waginger, seconded by Chris Somers. “To approve Melissa Magness as the newest member of the Zoning Committee.” Passed 12-0-1
President’s Report: Matt Ruben: written report attached and reviewed (see below).
Motion: By Rick Angeli, seconded by Anne Waginger. “To ratify any and all board polls taken during the previous month.”
Treasurer’s Report: Steve Richman: written report distributed and reviewed (see below).
Steve noted that there are budgeted funds for the maintenance of Madison Memorial Park and that a person needs to be hired to do that job. Katrina agreed to be responsible for asking Lara to hire a person or team to do regular cleanup at the park.
It was noted that, as the Fall Fest has become a fundraiser for the NLNA, its expenses and revenues should be recorded in the General Fund budget rather than the Liberty Lands budget, to conform to the NLNA’s general policy for budgeting fundraising events. Steve will prepare budget tables reflecting this adjustment and present them to the board at the next meeting for approval. On a longer term basis it was agreed that the Finance Committee will consider the merits of moving the Liberty Lands operating budget to the General Fund.
Motion: By Rick Angeli, seconded by Anne Waginger. “To accept the Treasurer’s report as presented.” Passed 13-0-0
Liberty Lands Committee Report: Janet Finegar: written report attached and reviewed (see below).
It was agreed that Liberty Lands should be the topic for the December 12 General Meeting.
There will be a Meet-n-Greet on November 15.
Rick suggested to the Membership Committee that forms to encourage people to sign up for the NLNA listserve should be brought to every NLNA event (such as the Fall Festival).
Zoning Committee Report: Larry Freedman; written report attached and reviewed (see below).
Motion: By Katrina Mansfield, seconded by Anne Waginger. “To support the recommendations of the Zoning Committee in the matter of 405-45 St. John Neumann, i.e.: ‘Thank you for your presentation. We continue to have problems with this project for Saint John Neumann and Leithgow Streets. The monolithic façade design and its scale are too massive for this small street. The Zoning committee and neighbors want to see new plans that have the 2 buildings with entrances on Saint John Neumann only 3 stories high; have no homes that exceed 38’ high; have compliant rear yards; maintain the set-backs on the 4th floor; and show more variation of color/materials/design. Please go to the UDC and return to the Zoning committee with adjusted plans that also include elevations, dimension and the buildings in context with nearby homes.’” Passed 13-0-0
Motion: By Steve Richman, seconded by Janet Finegar. “To support the recommendations of the Zoning Committee in the matter of 517-33 Poplar St., i.e.: ‘Thank you for your presentation. Please return with plans that are more developed and detailed so we can further assess this project. Those plans should include: a traffic flow plan with options for ingress and egress; a shadow study; a trash plan; a mixed-use proposal for the 1st floor and possibly the 2nd floor; a deck design that minimizes sound projection northward; a design that maintains the 1:1 parking spaces; a design that maintains the open public space; a design that maintains the 9’ alley for neighbors; and a design that maintains the varying heights of building elements.’” Passed 13-0-0
Motion: By Katrina Mansfield, seconded by Anne Waginger. “To support the recommendations of the Zoning Committee in the matter of 834 N. 4th St., i.e.: ‘Thank you for your presentation. We support the changes to the existing approved plans for 3 apartments with a basement and a commercial space for 834 N. 4th Street as presented to the Zoning Committee on 10/29/13. Please go to the UDC to review the façade design and materials. A letter of support will be issued upon the recommendation of the UDC. However, there is no support for a food/restaurant establishment.’” Passed 13-0-0
Motion: By Janet Finegar, seconded by Anne Waginger. “To support the recommendations of the Zoning Committee in the matter of 117 Spring Garden St., i.e.: ‘Thank you for your presentation. We offer conditional support for this project; however, please return to the Zoning Committee with plans that include: roof decks, parapets, pilot houses and solar panels on the roof shown as they will be built; a storm water strategy; interior layout; and façade drawings with dimensions and materials called out.’” Passed 13-0-0
Motion: By Janet Finegar, seconded by Michael Coyne. “To support the recommendations of the Zoning Committee in the matter of 800 N. Hancock St., i.e.: ‘Since this house was not built to the approved plan we cannot support the changes. However, we believe that the current residents of this home were not aware of the non-compliant structure and we do not feel that the changes create a significant negative impact on the neighborhood. We do request that the illegal curb cut on Brown Street be removed, filled in, the signs removed and that it returns as an on-street parking space. In addition, we request that open space behind the doors be used only for rear yard.’” Passed 13-0-0
Anne reported that there are 11 candy machines out in the neighborhood now, 5 of which are broken and 6 of which (in 3 locations) are functional. It seems possible that Kate Hawk will be able to take over: Anne will pursue connecting Kate and Ken to make that happen.
The meeting was adjourned by acclaim at 8:43 p.m.
President’s Report, November 2013
1. PLANNING AND POLICY-RELATED ISSUES
- Mission – No update.
- Casinos – No update. The PA Gaming Control Board is expected to issue a decision toward the end of the year, awarding a license to one of the six applicants.
- Central Delaware Master Plan – Indirect update: Councilman Squilla introduce a bill that would impact the North Delaware Overlay, which covers most of NL and overlaps with the Central Delaware Overlay. Details at our meeting.
- AVI/Real Estate Taxes – The City has not yet released Gentrification Protection applications. We’ve been speaking with a number of neighbors, explaining what this protection will entail. I think an update via email and at the next General Membership Meeting would be useful.
- Although OPA didn’t respond to either of the NLNA’s first-level review requests before the October 7 BRT Appeal deadline, they did nevertheless correct the inaccurate assessment of 704 N. 3rd St. As for 700-702 N. 3rd, we filed a BRT appeal via email and hand-delivery before the deadline, and received both email confirmation and the hand-delivery time stamp. At some point in the next few weeks, BRT should contact us with a hearing date, which date will be sometime after January 1.
- Administration, Budget, and Finances – See the Treasurer’s report.
- Street/Sidewalk Cleaning – Any updates in the Clean & Green report.
- Events – The Halloween/Fall Festival was October 27. Any updates during the Liberty Lands report. On a related note, Spooky Garden was once again a great success on October 31, drawing in more than 1,400 people.
- Also, a reminder that the next board Meet-n-Greet is November 15. Please try to make an appearance if at all possible. Traditionally we get only a modest number of new neighbors at these events – but the contacts we make are high-quality ones. So these events are rich sources of new volunteers and future board members.
- Spring Garden Greenway – No updates from last month.
3. DEVELOPMENT ISSUES AND DEVELOPER RELATIONS
- Piazza etc. – After many emails by Lara, and several phone calls from me, we finally succeeded in contacting the Piazza/Liberties Walk’s current General Manager. Details at our meeting.
- Finnegan’s Wake – No update.
- Sound Garden Hall – Any update in the zoning report.
- Parking – No update.
4. OUTREACH/EVENTS/GENERAL MEETINGS
- General Meetings – The October GM, held at St. Michael’s Church, saw decent attendance, but only about half the number of the September GM – not surprising given the different main agenda items. The meeting, on zoning remapping, nevertheless was quite productive. With few exceptions, it appears that the Planning Commission’s thinking on remapping the neighborhood fits pretty well with neighbors’ thinking. The Zoning Committee has been particularly helpful in this process.
- As we have done in recent years, I propose we combine the November and December GMs into a single, early December GM, in order to avoid conflict with neighbors’ and board members’ holiday related schedules. So I propose Thursday December 5, 7PM at the Community Center.
5. COMMUNICATION AND PUBLICITY
- Internet – The email list is headed towards 2,300, and the Facebook group is closing in on 600.
- Web site – No update.
6. OTHER ITEMS
- Board Polls – Ratification of any online or online board polls since last month’s board meeting.
TREASURER’S REPORT – NOV 2013
A. 2013-14 Budget: October Financials – tables attached
- For the one month ended on Oct 31st income was $13,385; this was $1,892 more than projected. Expenses totaled $7,323, which was $1,241 less than anticipated. Net income was $6,062 — $3,133 more than projected.
- Significant variations from budgeted projections in October were:
- Higher than anticipated income of about $1,800 from the Fall Fest and lower than expected spending for administrative support and maintenance activities of $1,200.
- Other smaller increases and decreases offset each other.
B. Other Items
- There is a potential $1,300 “hole” in the budget attributable to the absence of someone to service the candy machines. This needs to be addressed quickly.
- There has been an objection raised in the structure of the Liberty Lands budget. While the issue is “revenue neutral,” the proposed change (if approved by the board) would require amending both the Liberty Lands and General Fund budgets.
- The accountant hired by NLNA last year to prepare the 2011-12 annual statement and federal tax return has been retained again. He will be coming in this month to work on the 2012-13 report and tax return.
Liberty Lands Report
- We’ve gotten a couple of nice plant donations from Fine Garden Creations recently. Jen and Janet propose moving some of the hydrangeas planted in the spring into the rain garden and putting a large Japanese maple from FGC in the spot at the point of the gabions.
- I am working on scheduling the NLAC yearly board meeting; it will most likely be November 12 at the regular Liberty Lands meeting.
- I hope that it’s possible to have the November/December NLNA General Meeting also be the “big meeting” for Liberty Lands to cut down on the number of meetings in that crowded holiday period.
- We made a list of jobs for the new park employee and a list of suggested places to advertise for that person (in addition to the NLNA list serv, we’d like to ask PHS and the Urban Gardeners’ network for suggestions). Janet hasn’t drafted the job description yet.
- Frank Robertson made a pizza box collector for the park and installed it on the trash corral closest to the toddler playground for beta testing. He also plans to make some new corrals over the winter, which will save the park considerably. Thank you, Frank!
- William Reed installed a new, higher-quality lock on the potty shed door and it seems to be operating much more smoothly than the last one. (Thank you, William!)
- Jen and Janet drained the cisterns for the winter.
- The October 27 Fall Festival was a rousing success, with a huge number of activities and participants. Many people volunteered and contributed, but special thanks go to Kate Hawk who organized the whole thing. All expenses were covered and the festival brought in nearly $3,000 for the park and NLNA.
- A distinct lack of enthusiasm for a “Love Your Park” workday on November 16 led us to not sign up for the PHS-sponsored events. Nonetheless, we’ll have a hard-core workday that day with at least some of these tasks: shutting down the pump, putting away hoses and tools for the winter, bringing in new large rocks for the rain garden paths, rose bush pruning, bulb planting, planting the new maple and moving the hydrangeas, fixing broken sections of the Bodine Street wall, filling in the new sinkhole on Bodine, and sanding the picnic tables.
- Upcoming events:
November 16 Love Your Park Workday
December 14 Krampuslauf
ZONING COMMITTEE MEETING – Monday 10/28/13
Members present: Larry Freedman (chair), Ken Grono, Joe Mikuliak, Michael Simons, Sharon Richman, Ira Upin, Chris Issacson Members absent:, Charlie Abdo, Tim McDonald, Jonathan Sher,
405-45 St. John Neumann (NE corner of STJ & Leithgow) – CMX2 – Nino Cutrufello: Return visit with a proposal for 7-single family dwellings with off-street parking. [Previous Motion (Joe) – 2nd (Ira): Vote 7-0 Thank you for your presentation. The neighbors had specific problems with the design for 8 homes at Saint John Neumann and N. Leithgow Streets. These problems include: 1) The monolithic garages on the front façade without any “eyes” on the street; 2) Building houses on lots that re ½ the “legal” size with undersized rear yards; 3) Height, especially of the corner house with the pilot house; and, 4) The institutional façade. Please return with plans for a new design that has: a façade that is not so institutional looking; fewer homes with rear yards that are legally compliant; eliminated the pilot house on corner home; reduction of height to 38’ for all houses; get approval of parking plan from Streets Department; presents a site plan in context with surrounding homes; presents a site plan that reflects the slope of the street; information prepared regarding the staging of construction; and, façade design elements showing how the utility meters will be hidden.] Previously, the project proposed 8 homes. Now there are 7 (5 on Leithgow and 2 on Saint John Neumann). None of the houses are now 4 stories on the street; all of the 4th stories are set back from the street (balconies). The third story is 33’ high. The top of the 4th floor is 41’ high. There is no pilot house on the corner building. Five of the houses now meet the open space requirement. There are now windows on the street level of each home. The gray stucco on the original front design has been replaced with more brick (cream colored), some wood to soften the appearance. Front windows are varied in size. Garages are recessed 4½’ – 5’; previously the recess was only 2’. House entrances are on the side of the garage recess. Utilities are on the other side of the garage recess. They considered moving the garages to the back of the houses on Leithgow, but then they would need to eliminate the set back of 3 of the houses. Discussion: The neighbors wanted windows on the St. John Neumann side and stucco surfaces on St. John Neumann should not be large blank surfaces. The dimensions of the backyards did not seem to meet the open space requirements. Two neighbors were adamant about the project adhering to height and set back restrictions. The ZBA is being strict about 38’ high limits.
Motion (Joe) – 2nd (Chris): Vote 4-2 Thank you for your presentation. We continue to have problems with this project for Saint John Neumann and Leithgow Streets. The monolithic façade design and its scale are too massive for this small street. The Zoning committee and neighbors want to see new plans that: have the 2 buildings with entrances on Saint John Neumann only 3 stories high; have no homes that exceed 38’ high; have compliant rear yards; maintain the set-backs on the 4th floor; and, show more variation of color/materials/design. Please go to the UDC and return to the Zoning committee with adjusted plans that also include elevations, dimension and the buildings in context with nearby homes.
517-33 Poplar St. – I2 – Shimi Zaken: A preliminary proposal for 35 40 residential units and 1:1 off-street parking. Parking will be in the basement and on the ground level. On the 2nd and 3rd floors there are 11 units (total of 14 beds on each floor) and on the 4th and 5th floor there are 9 units (total of 13 beds on each floor). There will be roof deck on the 3rd floor and a balcony on the 2nd level. Because this is I2, there is no open space requirement however there is approximately 12% open space and about 20% general open space on the 1st floor. A permanent easement of 9’ that will be paved and planted is proposed between the existing homes between Randolph and N. 6th Streets and the new structure. Discussion: There was concern about the current amount of traffic on Poplar and Randolph, particularly at drop-off and pick-up times at the school, and the impact of these additional cars. The current plan for the proposed curb cut on 6th Street would create a traffic problem. Ingress/egress on Poplar Street was suggested (could lose a few parking spaces). Some commercial activity on the 1st floor (mixed use) would be an asset to the area. Some neighbors were concerned about the 58+’ height overshadowing nearby houses.
Motion (Mike) – 2nd (Ira): Vote 6-0 Thank you for your presentation. Please return with plans that are more developed and detailed so we can further assess this project. Those plans should include: a traffic flow plan with options for ingress and egress; a shadow study; a trash plan; a mixed-use proposal for the 1st floor and possibly the 2nd floor; a deck design that minimizes sound projection northward; maintaining the 1:1 parking spaces; maintaining the open public space; maintaining the 9’ alley for neighbors; and maintaining the varying heights of building elements.
ZONING COMMITTEE MEETING – Tuesday 10/29/13
Members present: Larry Freedman (chair), Charlie Abdo, Ken Grono, Tim McDonald, Joe Mikuliak, Sharon Richman, Jonathan Sher, Members absent: Chris Issacson, Michael Simons, Ira Upin,
834 N. 4th St. – ICMX – Raymond Rola: To adjust the previously approved plan by adding a basement to use with first floor commercial, and 2 bi-level apartments instead of flats. [Previous Discussion: The original variance stipulated that all of the building would be demolished to make way for a 4-story building (commercial on 1st floor with 3 floors above on each of 3 floors) on this combination of 5 lots creating an “L” shaped property. Instead, the back lot along Leithgow was sold off and home(s) were erected. The main building was never demolished, leaving an “L” shaped cinderblock wall about 12’-15’ high. At this time the builder does not want to demolish the existing building. He hasn’t decided exactly what he wants to do with the property, but he doesn’t want to demolish it now (could use it as an office for his business and add 2 stories above it). The house(s) on the back part of the lot cannot get a Certificate of Occupancy until the existing wall, a party wall, is demolished. The existing variance does not provide for a partial demolition of the wall. To compound the problem, the neighbor has a deeded right of way even though the current building was erected on top of it. The neighbors want their easement to go from their back yard to Leithgow. This is clearly a legal matter and it was suggested that the neighbor have a survey of their property completed because surveys supersede deeds.] [Motion (Joe) 2nd (Chris): Vote (7-0) We were told that the previous variance included demolition which would restore an easement. At the present time, we cannot support the change to the previous variance. Please resolve the issue of this easement before returning to the Zoning Committee with a specific proposal for 834 N. 4th Street if a variance is required.] Roland Kassis was the previous owner. This revised plan is still the same height with the following changes: a basement is proposed as part of a 1st floor commercial space; a single family dwelling unit would be on the second floor and two bi-level dwelling units would occupy the top 2 floors (3rd and 4th); a 7’ wide court would separate the two bi-level dwelling units at the 4th; and the elevator would be eliminated. The presenter speculated that the commercial space might be used for a food establishment or restaurant. They were advised that this would require additional zoning approval. Neighbors objected to using the commercial space for food purposes. Brick with fiber cement panels on the bay were the proposed exterior materials. Two units would be getting roof decks. The pilot house will not exceed the 10’ allowance. The previously approved project was tied to the construction of 4 buildings behind it and the demolition of the existing wall that the adjacent neighbors. The neighbors adjacent to this property were concerned about the potential for damage to the foundation of their house (they have a basement) now that excavation would be required for the proposed basement. The issue of the long wall (that could fall down) that was required to be demolished (as part of the previously approved project) still needs to be addressed. (The 4 buildings behind this project cannot get a Certificate of Occupancy until the wall is taken down. The neighbors were advised that they may want to obtain the services of a structural engineer and/or an attorney to draw up an agreement with the builder/contractor regarding the steps necessary to ensure the integrity of their structure is maintained.
Motion (Joe) – 2nd (Ken): Vote 5-0-1 Thank you for your presentation. We support the changes to the existing approved plans for 3 apartments with a basement and a commercial space for 834 N. 4th Street as presented to the Zoning Committee on 10/29/13. Please go to the UDC to review the façade design and materials. A letter of support will be issued upon the recommendation of the UDC. However, there is no support for a food/restaurant establishment.
117 Spring Garden St. – CMX2 – Ed Fink: Return visit with a proposal for a 6-story residential bldg. with commercial first floor. [Previous Motion (Joe) – 2nd (Jon): Vote 6-0 Thank you for your presentation. Please return with plans for a building with a finished height that is no more than 50’ on the south half, and is no more than 38’ on the northern half of the property. Parking should provide 1 space per 3 units. Include a larger commercial space on the 1st floor along the Spring Garden side. Keep Hope Street pedestrian friendly. The new plans should include interior and exterior dimensions, exterior materials, a shadow study and contextual drawings that include I-95 and homes to the north.] The revised plan provides for a 52’4” five-story building on the southern half of the structure and a 40’6” four-story building on the northern half. The number of apartments was reduced from 30 to 25 (total of 37 bedrooms). There are ten parking spaces so the 1:3 parking ratio has been maintained. A shadow study was completed showing little impact on the nearest houses that are 81’9½“ away from this project. Traditional red brick is proposed for the first floor with stucco above. Different colored panels will cover the front of the balconies. Some storm water will be diverted to a planting area, but they are researching what the drainage requirements are for a project of this size.
Motion (Joe) – 2nd (Jon): Vote 6-0 Thank you for your presentation. We offer conditional support for this project; however, please return to the Zoning Committee with plans that include: roof decks, parapets, pilot houses and solar panels on the roof shown as they will be built; storm water strategy; interior layout; and façade drawings with dimensions and materials called out.
600 Spring Garden St. – Maurntee T-Toe (Statuz Night Club): To discuss proposed changes to the existing CLA. Three gentlemen made a brief presentation about their plans for a restaurant and a multi-purpose venue at this location. No proposed changes to the existing CLA were presented. They were advised to send a letter with their mission statement and details of their proposed changes to the CLA.
Melissa Magness – appeared before the Zoning Committee as a nominee to become a member of the ZC. She has experience as an expediter for approvals from L&I, Water Department, and City Hall for her father’s business. Motion (Jonathan) – 2nd (Joe): Vote 6-0
800 N. Hancock St. – I2 – Henry Clinton: Legalization of a reduced third floor, roof deck and relocation of pilothouse. This is the end unit of 5 units. The owners purchased the house not knowing that it was not built according to approved plans. They received a violation notice from L&I for an illegal deck on the front of the house (deck is not set back from the street) and a pilot house that is in a location not specified in the approved plans. (This is the only house of the 5 with this deck.) Upon further review, it was noted that there is also an illegal curb cut (12’9”) on Brown Street with a two-door gate opening to the rear yard that was not included in the approved plans. There are two street signs preventing parking along this curb cut. Motion (Group): Vote 6-0 Since this house was not built to the approved plan we cannot support the changes. However, we believe that the current residents of this home were not aware of the non-compliant structure and do not feel that the changes create a significant negative impact on the neighborhood. We do request that the illegal curb cut on Brown Street be removed, filled in, the signs removed and that it returns as an on-street parking space. In addition, we request that open space behind the doors be used only for rear yard.