Fox Chase talks zoning, streets, walking trail

A busy Fox Chase Town Watch and Homeowner’s Association meeting saw discussion about a street study, updates on the Lorimer walking trail and an impassioned variance request.

 

There was a standing crowd at last week’s Fox Chase Town Watch and Homeowners Association meeting, with residents gathering to hear about many different updates.

A good number of the crowd raised their hands when asked if they were here to support Hafuz Tahiraj, owner of Chubby’s Fox Chase Deli at 537 Hoffnagle St. He presented a variance request to turn the building’s garage, which he said is in distress, into an apartment.

This would be the property’s second variance, as the property got a variance about a year and a half ago to add a second apartment. Tahiraj brought in a petition with over 500 signatures in favor of the project.

Homeowners Association president George Bezanis said that one of the association’s standing rules is to oppose variance requests for new construction that permits multiple structures on a lot that previously held only a single structure or variance. Zoning director Craig Turner raised the point that the variance would be permanent, and if someone else becomes owner of the property, they could be a less responsible owner and landlord of the apartments.

Despite that, neighbors displayed impassioned support for the project, which ended up getting a unanimous support vote from 17 nearby neighbors, and a 10-8 vote from the Homeowners Association, with four members abstaining.

Lorimer Trail

Designs for the Lorimer Trail upgrade are in their final stages, said Rob Armstrong of the Parks and Recreation department. A final “package” of the plans will be submitted to PennDOT most likely in January, which will be followed by roughly four to six months of bidding for the city and PennDOT to be select the contractor. After that, it’ll be a four-month construction project at the most, Armstrong said.

The crushed stone trail will be 12 feet wide up to Montgomery County. The project will include upgraded traffic signals at the intersection of Rhawn Street, Rockwell Avenue and Jeanes Street.

Design details include pipes to accommodate for the area’s poor drainage. Trash, furniture and illegal dumping will be cleaned up with the construction. Trees will be trimmed and any tree deemed dangerous will be removed.

SEPTA and the city will not be putting up fences between the trail and backyards facing the trail, Armstrong said. He said those residents are welcome to put fences, hedges or anything else between their yard and the trail as long as it is on their own property.

Complete Streets study

Greg Waldman of the city’s community planning division gave neighbors an update on the recent walkthrough of Fox Chase’s town area. The study is looking at Rhawn Street between Oxford Avenue and Pine Road to Rockwell Avenue and Jeanes Street to be a complete street, a Philadelphia2035 revitalization plan that aims to accommodate users of all transportation systems, including pedestrians, cyclists, car drivers and public transit users.

The project is still in the data collection phase, meaning pedestrians may see pedestrian counters on utility poles in the area. The study will look at how people get to and from the SEPTA station there with the goal of reducing speeding and creating safer conditions for pedestrians.

The study will continue through June, where specific ideas for improvement will be identified. There will be several opportunities for the public to weigh in at public meetings as the project progresses, with the first tentatively taking place late winter or early spring.

Residents can take a survey about intersection improvements and learn more about the project at bit.ly/2kQwr8r.

Other study areas in the city are Lehigh Avenue and Broad and Olney in North Philadelphia.

Polec 25th anniversary

Nov. 11 marked 25 years since 16-year-old Eddie Polec was killed on the front steps of St. Cecilia Church. Stephen Phillips, Fox Chase Town Watch president, began the meeting with a moment of silence to remember Polec and also in recognition of Veterans Day earlier that week.

“I don’t want to forget him, the pain of losing a child never goes away, and our goal is to make sure that never happens again,” Phillips said. ••