Close to 100 outspoken river ward residents from Philadelphia neighborhoods that are affected by development and sewage back-up issues turned out for a full-day symposium at Furness High School in South Philadelphia Saturday.
The event, sponsored by the Pennsport and Whitman Council civic associations, was designed to cover the issues of sewage control given the prospect of casino development in a number of riverfront communities; traffic gridlock concerns on Delaware Avenue and I-95; and legislative actions being taken and under consideration around the issues of riparian rights, casino siting and charter change and the portability of casino licenses.
Speakers and presenters included Pennsport Civic Association president John Dougherty; state representatives Bill Keller, Mike O’Brien and John Taylor; Joanne Dahme and Debra McCarty of the water department, Joe Fiola of DEP, Izat Melhan of the health department; Barry Seymour and Rosemarie Anderson of the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission; Charles Denny of the streets department; Chuck Davis of PennDOT; Jim Paylor of the International Longshoremen’s Association; and councilman Frank DiCicco.
Videos of the three segments of the event are being produced by PlanPhilly. The first video concerning sewer problems is now available to view on the site. Traffic and legislation segments should be available shortly.
The topic of sewage included recommendations calling for residents to install flow back-up protection in their homes, for the city to consider building holding tanks for excess flow from heavy rains and for the casinos to install independent sewage infrastructure that would run directly to treatment facilities.
The traffic discussions centered on existing gridlock in South Philadelphia and the need for a comprehensive, independent study that would detail the impact the casinos as well as more development would have on river ward neighborhoods. The assembled state representatives called for the DVRPC to issue an RFP (request for proposal) and conduct a traffic study that would be apolitical. DiCicco concurred with the state representatives concerning the DVRPC’s leading role in developing a traffic study.
The legislative session included a discussion of riparian rights, which can limit where casinos are sited along the river; a call for the Gaming Control Board to be more transparent about the reasons behind their decision to approve Foxwoods and SugarHouse; the politicans’ stand on Act 71, which enabled casinos; an explanation by Keller about his successful house action to defeat a bill that would have seded the city’s ability to approve casino siting.
Keller also announced that he is developing a master plan for the working port that will create, at a minimun, 20,000 jobs.
The event concluded with Anne Dicker of Casino Free Philadelphia soliciting signatures for a petition that would call for a public referendum May 15 on zoning that enables casinos to exist within 1,000 feet of a residential neighborhood.
Dougherty said there will be three or four more symposiums. See transcripts of the first symposium by clicking here