NLNA BOARD OF DIRECTORS MINUTES – Meeting of September 5, 2017

PRESENT: Matt Ruben, President; Barbara Mulckhuyse, Vice-President; Steve Richman, Treasurer; Janet Finegar, Secretary; Monika Kreidie; Ben Mann; Joe Mikuliak; Don Phillips; Barbara Saverino; Chris Somers.

ABSENT: Michael Coyne; Donald Hoegg;  Jeremy Lindemann; Ira Upin; Anne Waginger.

ALSO PRESENT:      Claire Adler

The meeting was called to order by the President at 7:08 p.m.

Motion: By Steve Richman, seconded by Joe Mikuliak:“To approve the minutes of the August Board meeting as presented.”  Passed 7-0-0

President’s Report: Matt Ruben

Matt provided updates on some ongoing issues in the neighborhood:

  • the pavilion in the Community Center yard is going up, with energetic oversight from Ira and Steve.
  • There was a shooting in the neighborhood last night which seems to have been a personal misunderstanding at a private party.
  • There has been a complaint from some neighbors about noise from events at Schmidt’s Commons.
  • The first large public meeting about the proposed Business Improvement District in Northern Liberties is coming up September 19; Matt urged Board members to attend if possible.
  • We need to hold a general membership meeting, but because of the BID meeting and a public Liberty Lands meeting in September, it should be in early October.

Motion: By Janet Finegar, seconded by Barb Mulckhuyse. “To ratify any and all board polls taken during the past month.”  Passed 7-0-0

Treasurer’s Report: Steve Richman: confidential written report of draft FY18 budget distributed and reviewed.

 Steve reviewed the current account balances and proposed budget for the coming year. In summary, the current state of the organization is strong as we go into the next fiscal year. At the close of the current year, the NLNA will have achieved a reserve fund equalling a year’s operating budget, which is a conservatively recommended status for a non-profit. If strong support for the organization continues in the future, we should be able to consider new programs or hiring in the FY19 budget.

Motion: ByBarbara Saverino, seconded by Monika Kreidie.“To accept the Treasurer’s report as presented.”  Passed 7-0-0

Liberty Lands Committee Report: Janet Finegar: written report attached and reviewed.

Liberty Lands Report

September 2017

  • Janet finally sent out the announcement for the fence/sidewalk project and the request for proposals (both of which are attached to this as well – please share, everyone!). The first community meeting about the project will be September 12 at 7 p.m. at the community center: hoping that meeting will consist of bringing everyone up to date on the concept, taking any questions or suggestions, and establishing some committees to work on the project. I have also reached out to the Water Department (at Eric Zimmerman’s suggestion – thanks Eric!) to see if they have any input on the way that the sidewalk might affect drainage on the block (or even if it could be modified to HELP drainage on the block). The other major issue for discussion at that meeting is whether we’d like to try to extend the sidewalk south so that there is real, clean sidewalk around the whole park. This would reduce the number of parking spots there (currently people park head-in, but a sidewalk would necessitate parallel parking), so it might be contentious.
  • We just bought a new gas-powered weed whacker for the park, and for security reasons it’s currently residing at Brian Turcich’s house. Brian also volunteered to deal with some of the jungle that has sprung up since the old weedwhacker was stolen.
  • At the August steering committee meeting, we decided to modify our operating budget for the coming fiscal year. Rather than have a single line item for a variety of tasks (the “honey-do” budget, as we’ve called it: these are jobs that have been mostly done by Chico), we agreed to budget into more specific and skilled-labor areas for the work that actually needs to be done. We are discussing weedwhacking with our landscaping company in the hopes of adding trimming all around the park (rather than just in the main lawn area) to their contract, and we will seek to hire a local person with gardening experience to do 2-3 hours a week during the summer months of exclusively weeding, particularly the fence around the community garden. This will use up the majority of the money previously budgeted as “honey-do”: the remaining funds will be budgeted for skilled repairs such as carpentry or plumbing work with a small amount for unskilled labor. We hope that Chico will continue to work for us doing trash collection.
  • We are also planning to switch from our current trash hauler (Waste Management) to a smaller, local company as soon as the WM contract expires in November. The new company offers the same service for a noticeably lower cost.
  • The budget for the coming fiscal year is otherwise similar to those for the last few years: our most significant expenses are for trash collection and hauling, with other major costs being insurance, utilities (water and electricity), potty rental, and mowing. Our overall operating budget for the year is just over $21,000: approximately half of this is covered by the money we get from potty and party use fees, with about two thousand in park-specific donations and small grants. The rest of the annual operating costs are covered by donations to the NLNA in general. Liberty Lands also maintains a capital project and emergencies fund separate from our general operating budget, which allows us to plan future projects with some financial security.
  • We also agreed that we should switch the lock on the potty shed door over to a programmable lock (but still limit access!) so that we would not need to worry about changing keys when users change.
  • NLArts painted a new mural on the concrete pad during their August session. A miscommunication with the teachers means that the granite curbstones around the mulch box were also painted, but oh well. They are bright and cheerful and the paint will wear off.
  • The fall Love Your Park workday will be November 4. In the meantime, a small but stalwart group of people continues to meet on Saturday mornings for Weeder’s Club.
  • The dream of the erosion control project at the north end continues. Someday, it will happen. In a similar vein, Dennis Haugh (father of the park and painter of the green-man/water mural) is looking for some artists’ funding to pair with a donation the park received and to allow him to refresh that mural.
  • Neighbor Tenley Poulin came to the August meeting to talk about concerns about airborne lead particles and lead contamination at the park. As our community grows, there are a lot of people who don’t know the ecological status of the park, so a quick re-cap is in order. When the park land had the Burke Bros. Tannery buildings on it in the 1980’s, it was identified by the EPA as a toxic site because of PCB contamination. The EPA did a cleanup of the building at that time, and as part of the grant we received to establish the park, they re-tested the site to confirm that the land post-demolition was safe for use as a park (especially since we would be digging tree pits). That round of tests came back as safe: we received a verbal report on the tests that specifically noted that there were NO contaminants on the site that would make it risky for park use, and that the levels of heavy metal (includes lead) in the soil were actually lower than in surrounding sites. In 2006, the north end of the park was tested again because of concerns about airborne toxins from nearby construction on contaminated sites, and the results of those tests (which we received actual numbers and analysis for) determined again that there were some low levels of contamination in the soil (specifically of chromium), but none that would endanger even a child who ate the soil itself. [Because a project was underway at the north end at that time anyway, we chose to treat that soil as contaminated and it was removed and replaced.] The playground areas of the park are all surrounded by purchased safety-surfacing wood mulch, which we replenish every two years and have done so since the playground areas were built in 2000 and 2001: in other words, all the “soil” surface around the playstructures is no older than 17 years old and was brought in as clean material. The community gardens were built at the time of building the park itself (1996) and we used clean fill topsoil brought in for the purpose to fill the garden beds. Each bed has been maintained by individual gardeners since then, and so they all have different soils that have been added, but none of the food-based gardens are in the soil from the site. [The “Edible Forest” gardens at the north end are, likewise, in the clean soil brought in in 2006.]

For this variety of reasons, the main concern about contamination at Liberty Lands is from airborne particles of lead from dirt disturbed in construction. This is a real concern at many sites, but we felt that the 2-3 inches of mulch around the playground was newer than dirt disturbance at any construction near  Liberty Lands and would provide protection for children at the park. Tenley planned to do “swipe” tests on the playground equipment as a baseline for information about whether lead was present there. Those tests have since come back as negative; Tenley plans to test again, since contamination from airborne lead can change from day to day, but that is a good sign.

Anyone who speaks with parents concerned about contaminants at the park is welcome to offer them the above information. I’d recommend, too, that we all emphasize that most lead exposure comes from inside homes – and the huge step all parents should take is to be vigilant about keeping contaminants out of kids’ mouths, primarily by RINSING their hands (not Purell!)

  • And finally: August brought two messages to the NLNA about trash at the park – one about the pile of boards by the trash corral and another about a woman spreading bread for the birds (or rats) and being obnoxious when confronted. These come in now and then and I’d encourage all park lovers to deal with any such comments/complaints THEY hear by a) thanking people for their interest and b) encouraging them to be more involved/deal with things themselves. [I re-piled the board pile so that there aren’t any sharp bits sticking out, but it would be great if we got rid of some of that old trash wood – maybe a fall dumpster for wood and brush?] Most importantly, I think we can’t emphasize enough to parents that they are personally and solely responsible for their children’s safety at the park – unsupervised children are a danger to the park as well as to themselves!
  • If anyone has a photo of me ignoring toddler Helen at the park or handing her a slice of pizza with my hands covered in dirt, this is definitely the time to share it. Do as I say, not as I do.
  • Request for Proposals and Feedback!

The Liberty Lands committee is excited to announce that we’ve received funding from the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development and the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society for a major improvement to the park and the community. With the funding, we’ll be able to replace the existing community garden fence with a stronger and more beautiful fence AND install a pedestrian sidewalk to the Bodine Street side of the park.  This is a community project for our community park! Details about the funded proposal are below, but let’s start with what you can do.

  • Are you a metalwork artist? We’re looking for 10 unique panels that are both artistic and functional to be the focus points of the new fence and need proposals for these as soon as possible!
  • Are you a lover of the park who’d like to help choose from the proposed fence panels, and/or be part of the planning and installing process?
  • Are you a neighbor who wants to give feedback about the new sidewalk on Bodine?

The project:

FENCE: The existing post-and-rail fence will be replaced with a metal fence that includes a base of at least 20 standard panels in the “Tacony” style (a basic black metal 5′ fence of vertical rails, similar to the one at Orianna Hill Park). These will alternate with up to 20 artist-designed panels that will make the fence unique and appropriate to the Liberty Lands aesthetic. Requirements for the proposed artistic panels will include that they are not easily climbed and do not pose a hazard to the public with sharp points or unsafe materials. Artists will be compensated with honoraria for their design and build of the panels. Designs will be selected by a committee of interested neighbors over the winter of 2017-8. Installation of the fence is made possible by funding from the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society and will occur in spring 2019.

SIDEWALK: The existing post-and-rail fence stands inside the eastern border of Liberty Lands with a wide strip of shrubs and planters between the community garden and the area where cars are commonly parked along Bodine Street. This project will remove those shrubs and planters in favor of a poured cement sidewalk that will allow pedestrians to walk around the entire park safely and provide a clear curbline for cars parking on the street. The poorly maintained greenery of this edge of the park will be replaced by the “frame” of a sidewalk, the artistic new fence, and a view into the beauty of the community gardens.

REQUEST FOR PROPOSALS:

The Liberty Lands committee of NLNA seeks proposals for up to 20 unique metal fence panels, to be designed and built by the artists, for its community garden fence. An honorarium of $2,500 per panel is offered to selected panels: this honorarium is intended to cover the costs of materials, fabrication, and the artists’ participation/guidance in installation as well as compensation for the artists’ design.

Requirements:

Each panel must fit in a 10′ long by 5′ high space (defined by the “panel” size of a standard “Tacony” metal fence) and be possible to be installed as a section of that fence.

Each panel must be functional AS a garden fence for a public area. The design should not be easy to climb over nor involve dangerous projecting elements on which people could easily be hurt. Materials should be chosen for durability in a public, outdoor environment and should be safe for children, animals, and garden soil.

Panels must be fully fabricated and ready for installation in the spring of 2019.

Artists are encouraged to develop their own vision(s) within these requirements, and may submit as many different designs as they wish. Panels will be selected by a committee of neighbors with an eye to those which work best with each other and the plain panels that will alternate with them: more than one panel by an individual artist may be selected for installation.

Timeline:

  • September 12, 2017 Neighborhood meeting about grant; public opportunity to ask questions about this RFP
  • October 10, 2017 Deadline for project proposals
  • January 9, 2018 Community charrette/discussion meeting and final selection of panels
  • January 2019 Deadline for completion of panel fabrication
  • Spring 2019 Installation of fence and artists’ panels

Operations Committee Report: Monika Kreidie:

Monika reported on the renewed leases from our commercial tenant and one residential tenant. Barb is working on locating a new, better alarm company.

Zoning Committee Report: Joe Mikuliak; written report attached and reviewed.

Motion: By Monika Kreidie, seconded by Steve Richman. “To approve the recommendations of the Zoning Committee in the matter of 243-45 W. George Street, i.e.: ‘We oppose the legalization of any curb cut in front of two residential lots (243 and 245 W. George). Since street parking is only permitted on that side of George Street, 2 parking spots would be eliminated and it opens up the possibility of homes with garage fronts on those lots in the future. We have no position regarding the 8’ fence.’”  Passed:7-0-0

Motion: By Monika Kriedie, seconded by Barbara Saverino. “To approve the recommendations of the Zoning Committee in the matter of 931 N. American Street, i.e.: ‘Please return with the following: 1) Building height that does not exceed the 38’ including the trellis; 2) Provide a minimum of 9’ setback in the backyard; 3) Provide drawings with the material choices and the existing building to give context; 4) Provide a shadow study including the impact of the trellis; 5) Create a 3 foot setback (on the lower roof deck) from Laurel Street by using a planter.’”  Passed: 7-0-0

 Motion: By Monika Kriedie, seconded by Barb Mulckhuyse. “To approve the recommendations of the Zoning Committee in the matter of 853 N. American Street, i.e.: ‘We support this project with the installation of a 42” high non-moveable planter that is setback 18” off the Poplar Street frontage.’”  Passed:7-0-0

Old Business

Steve reported that the superstructure of the pavilion in the rear yard is finally up and that the builders should be back on site at the end of this week to do the next stage of the construction. The plan is still to have the project at the level of installing landscaping in the fall.

In light of the proposed ability to rent the yard space in the future, Joe raised the point that we should have a clear, written agreement with renters about noise levels and uses, not to mention hours of use. The Operations Committee needs to draw up a list of rules for renting and also a set of plans for dealing with concurrent rentals of different spaces in the community center. In relation to that, Steve reported that he is in conversation with our insurance company about increasing our liability insurance to cover the yard.

New Business

Joe presented a proposed image demonstrating what it would look like to paint the NLNA logo on the side of the community center building. There was some conversation about what the level of cost would be for doing the paint job in a way that will last; Joe will seek solid estimates for the paint job. There was also conversation about what should be actually painted: just the logo and website, the full name of the association with the logo and website, or also a brief description of the activities at the community center.

Steve raised the possibility of upgrading the website and finding an IT consultant in the fall of this year. Matt encouraged the Board members to consider their acquaintance and recommend or connect anyone that might be useful in this capacity. Based on the Fox School of Business students’ recommendations, we are likely to need a Customer Relations Management system; Barbara will ask them for suggestions of programs that would work well for us.

The meeting was adjourned by acclaim at 8:45 p.m.

Addenda:

 

Zoning Committee – Monday 8/28/17

Members present: Larry Freedman (chair), Charlie Abdo, Kenny Grono, Joe Mikuliak, Sharon Richman, Abbey Spector

Members absent:  Jonathan Sher, Michael Simons, Chris Isaacson, Melissa Magness, Ira Upin

243-45 W. George Street – RSA5 – Ian Smith: Proposal for the erection of an 8 foot high fence and creation of a parking space (refusal for 8’ fence and parking spot). The 8’ high fence currently exists as does the parking spot(s) at 243 and 245 W. George.  This request is to legalize what exists.  Each address has the same refusal.  Discussion: The neighbors were not happy.  This location has 3 unauthorized “No Parking” signs hung on the illegal fence in front of a curb with no cut. Additionally, the owner painted the curb yellow to give the impression that this is a legal No Parking area.

Motion –  (Joe) – 2nd (Charlie): Vote 5-0-0  We oppose the legalization of any curb cut in front of two residential lots (243 and 245 W. George).  Since street parking is only permitted on that side of George Street, 2 parking spots would be eliminated and it opens up the possibility of homes with garage fronts on those lots in the future.    We have no position regarding the 8’ fence.

 931 N. American Street – RSA5 – Brian Phillips:  Proposal for demolition and the erection of a new single family dwelling with parking space (refusal for parking space, rear yard setback and front setback). 73% of the land is occupied.  The garage is actually a carport.  The N. American side of the house is flush with the adjacent house.  The existing alley will remain the same.  The roof line is 38’, but the trellis on the ‘terrace’ appears more substantial then it was described and is considerably higher (closer to 48’). Discussion: The nearby neighbors wanted a shadow study completed to determine the impact on their respective houses and gardens.  The garage did not take a parking spot off the street because there is no parking permitted on that side.

Motion – (Joe) – 2nd (Abbey): Vote 5-0-0  Please return with the following: 1 – Building height that does not exceed the 38’ including the trellis;  2 – Provide a minimum of 9’ setback in the backyard;  3 – Provide drawings with the material choices and the existing building to give context;  4 – Provide a shadow study including the impact of the trellis;  5 – Create a 3 foot setback (on the lower roof deck) from Laurel Street by using a planter.

853 N. American Street – CMX2.5 – Ed Fink:  Proposal to add a 3rd and 4th story addition to 2 story structure (refusal for the deck over the second (possibly actually third?) floor – no setback). Discussion:  The addition of a non-movable planter provides sufficient setback.

Motion – (Kenny) – 2nd (Abbey): Vote 5-0-0  We support this project with the installation of a 42” high non-moveable planter that is setback 18” off the Poplar Street frontage.