When neighbors consented to a new, 13-acre construction materials recycling business at Torresdale Avenue and Tolbut Street in 1999, the understanding was that they shouldn’t have to see it, hear it or inhale any airborne debris generated by the facility.
A list of provisos included in a negotiated zoning approval that June sought to ensure those conditions. But now that a new business has taken over the property, neighbors say that at least some of those zoning requirements have been forgotten and local folks have been made to suffer.
During the monthly meeting of the Upper Holmesburg Civic Association on Nov. 20, civic leaders said that they have been trying to set up a meeting with the new operators to resolve complaints about the business.
The tract at 8837/8901 Torresdale Ave. was once home to the Liss Brothers warehouse, which burned to the ground in a notorious multialarm fire on Aug. 29, 1992. Owners did little with the site until December 1998, when a partnership including developer John Parsons and contractor Jose Ramos bought it for $650,000, according to city property records. The same partnership is still listed as the owner.
Within months of the sale, a construction material recycling and supply business named Academy Recycling had applied for zoning permits to operate there. In the absence of an organized civic group in the neighborhood, then-Councilwoman Joan Krajewski organized a committee of nearby residents to develop a set of provisos in exchange for their support of the permit application.
At the time, the Northeast Times reported that the neighbors and business operators had agreed to eight provisos, including that there should be a new eight-foot screened fence installed around the perimeter of the facility and that trees should be planted along Torresdale Avenue and Tolbut Street to shield the site further from the surrounding community.
But since the landscape supply business moved there several months ago, the trees have been removed and the screen removed from the existing fence so that towering piles of soil can be seen within yards of Torresdale Avenue. And neighbors living across Torresdale and along Tolbut Street have reported that airborne dust from the plant is soiling their homes, leaving a layer of grime on their windows and facades.
Civic association officers are investigating the details of the 1999 zoning case. At the time, the property was listed as “G-2” general industrial. Under the new code adopted by the city in 2012, the land is “I-2” medium industrial.
In other Upper Holmesburg Civic Association business:
• President Stan Cywinski announced that the group is collecting gifts of clothing and toys to distribute among needy local families for the holidays. For contact information, visit the group’s Facebook page or email to firstname.lastname@example.org
• Ilene Jenofsky, district administrator for U.S. Rep. Bob Brady, announced plans to repaint the railroad trestle spanning Frankford Avenue at Solly Avenue. The rusted bridge has been considered an eyesore for years, but the railroad had refused to allow the civic association or local officials to repaint it. Last year, Brady learned of the standoff and offered to mediate a resolution. The painting was completed in the days leading up to the annual Mayfair Holmesburg Thanksgiving Parade on Nov. 23. ••