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. ••