Talks continue between civics on shared advisory roles

Officials in East Falls say they are still working out the details of a potential deal through which two local civic groups would share advisory roles with the city on a disputed section of the neighborhood.

The East Falls Community Council is in talks with the Ridge-Allegheny-Hunting Park group, or RAH, over whose group truly represents the area between Route 1 and Allegheny Avenue. Most specifically, the groups are considering whether to share the area between Route 1 and Scotts Lane, with both hearing proposals from developers and making recommendations on zoning decisions.

In a recent meeting with Richard Redding, community planner for the Philadelphia City Planning Commission, representatives of the civics met and reportedly came to tentative terms about sharing advisory duty for some zoning applications.

No concrete deal has been struck, though people close to the talks said in cases where the two groups disagree, the input of neighbors directly affected by a development would likely be a deciding factor in which group’s advice city officials would take. Redding has not responded to requests for interviews on this issue.

EFCC zoning committee chair Meg Greenfield said an earlier NewsWorks story may have left the impression that the parties were closer to a deal than it appeared. She clarified this week that no formal arrangement was in place.

Al Spivey, chief of staff for Councilman Curtis Jones Jr., declined to discuss the border dispute in great detail this week. He said the office is monitoring the situation but relying on the EFCC and RAH “to come to a fair and equitable solution for everybody.”

“There is going to be a resolution to this problem,” he said.

For its part, the EFDC is trying to stay out of the dispute, and did not attend the meeting with the planning commission. “We very explicitly said we are not participating in that,” said Gina Snyder, the EFDC’s executive director. “We are interested in taking part in positive discussions.”

Snyder did discuss the particulars of a tax-credit arrangement with The Pep Boys — Manny, Moe and Jack through which the corporation receives some of its funding.

Through the agreement brokered by then-Councilman Michael Nutter and signed in 2002, Pep Boys gives EFDC $100,000 each year in exchange for tax credits. Snyder said the money from the Pep Boys partnership, along with other grants and the proceeds of a small parking lot the EFDC operates, provide its operational budget including her salary, office overhead and events such as the Bike Race Block Party.

“We don’t use that money to put dollars on the street,” she said, and the EFDC’s primary focus remains economic and community development in the riverfront business district near Ridge and Midvale avenues. “The development corporation doesn’t want to be involved in a border dispute.”

RAH president Rosalie Cooper has said residents of the streets between Scotts Lane and Allegheny Avenue have not seen tangible benefits of that Pep Boys money, even as new businesses and residents have begun moving into the area.

To Snyder, the increased activity means that what EFDC does is working, and she said it’s a positive sign that businesses such as East Falls Fitness, a gym on Ridge Avenue near Hunting Park Avenue, want to “brand” themselves as part of East Falls. Neighborhoods naturally overlap, but disagreements among the civic groups won’t attract new businesses, she said.

“To me, the worst case scenario would be for anyone to walk away from areas that are in dispute,” she said.

Contact Amy Z. Quinn at azquinn@planphilly.com

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