Holme Circle shoots down rezoning issues

Neighbors largely rejected rezoning proposals that would affect the Holme Circle area, including the Rite Aid and Manchester Apartments.

It felt like déjà vu in Holme Circle.

On Feb. 7, the Holme Circle Civic Association called a special meeting to discuss proposed rezoning issues in the area, including a proposal similar to one the group had already discussed and voted against the previous year.

The City Planning Commission stopped by to propose rezoning based on the feedback neighbors had provided in the September 2017 meeting. But once again, residents were largely opposed to the change.

The majority of opposition came from rezoning the parcel of land currently occupied by Manchester Apartments near the 2800 block of Welsh Road. The proposed change would reclassify the parcel to change from an RSA-3 classification to RM-1.

In simplified terms, RSA-3 classifications denote lots with attached and semi-detached houses. RM-1 denotes areas with multi-unit residential buildings.

Though the latter classification would be more accurate to the apartment complex, neighbors raised concerns about what this could mean for the site of a former swimming pool that also sits on the lot.

“In September, we agreed not to build apartments on top of Manchester Apartments, but it was still an issue whether they could expand to where the vacant lot is,” said Elsie Stevens, corresponding secretary for the HCCA.

There can be no expansion under the current RSA-3 zoning, which is the major reason why Stevens and state Rep. Ed Neilson spoke firmly on not changing the classification. As it is now, the owner of the property would have to go through the civic association and zoning board to receive permission before expanding to the vacant lot.

Residents sided with Neilson and Stevens. It was a brief discussion.

But it wasn’t the only rezoning issue in question. The proposal also asked for the Rite Aid at the corner of Welsh and Blue Grass roads to be redistricted to CMX-2, a commercial and residential mixed zoning. It is currently zoned as a residential area, which means it has to go to the zoning board to make minor changes, such as signage.

“What we’re asking is to allow the Rite Aid to be a Rite Aid,” one of the presenters said. “Rite Aids don’t put buildings on top of them. They’re not going to build over their parking lot.”

Some neighbors voiced skepticism. This zoning would allow them to build to the street, which is currently edged by a parking lot.

“What’s our advantage?” Neilson asked. “I just want to make it clear that if they want to make any changes to the property, they have to come here. Why not change it later if anything ever comes?”

Neilson said as it is right now, they’re required to keep the parking lot on the site, but if the zoning was changed, they would not be required to keep it, and could build over it.

The Wawa at Grant Avenue and Blue Grass Road was voted with approval to be rezoned to the ICMX, or industrial commercial mixed use, zoning classification. It is currently zoned as industrial. This way, Wawa would not have to go through the zoning board for every minor detail, such as changing its side to feature the company’s flying goose mascot. Residents took no issue with the change.

In the end, the Wawa zoning change was the only one to receive neighbors’ approval.

Plans discussed at the meeting were nothing more than a proposal, and have not been introduced as a bill. Once again, residents’ feedback will be honored as the project remapping project continues.

In other news, the association will leave up its Philadelphia Eagles banners for the near future. ••