Discontent lingers after City Council unanimously passes Germantown variety store amendment

City Council voted unanimously on Thursday to approve a zoning-overlay amendment in Germantown that would allow variety stores over 7,500 square feet.

As has long been the case, the Save-A-Lot and Dollar Tree development at Chelten and Pulaski avenues, on the grounds of the late Fresh Grocer, was the underlying source of heated debate. The 17-0 vote came after testimony from 11 neighbors who opposed, and five neighbors who spoke in favor of, the Chelten Plaza shopping center set to open next week.

State Rep. Rosita Youngblood (198th District) opposed the amendment sponsored by outgoing City Councilwoman Donna Reed Miller. She cited more than 3,000 letters of opposition sent to the state against the development itself; developers Pulaski Partners say they have more than 7,000 signatures of support.

With the $14 million Chelten Plaza development set to receive $4 million in state funds, Youngblood said it “has forced me do legislation at the state to reform the way that we do our [public] funding [for private developments], not only in the city of Philadelphia but the entire Commonwealth so that we have transparency and the people’s trust.”

After Youngblood warned of possible cuts to state funding, along with future vetoes Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program (RACP) grant projects for Philadelphia, City Councilman Wilson Goode responded that he doesn’t appreciate threats or animosity toward council. As such, he said, he would vote for the amendment twice if he could.

“Aye, aye,” quipped Goode who, during committee hearings on the amendment, asked Pulaski Partners to produce an Economic Opportunities Plan for Chelten Plaza, which it did.

Miller said the neighborhood is in dire need of employment opportunities, which is why she sponsored the bill. “This is a $14 million project that will bring 100 jobs, both full- and part-time to the city,” she said.

Malik Boyd, secretary of Germantown Community Connection, a neighborhood group which negotiated with the developers, criticized the protestors. He also said Youngblood was only trying to ensure she is re-elected.

Attorney Carl Primavera, who represents Pulaski Partners, said that “Council sent a message to some of the people who spoke today. Hopefully, they will have to reconsider their negative energy.”

Protestors, however, remained angry.

“This is why people move to the suburbs,” shouted Megan Fitzpatrick, who was once secretary of GCC and member of the Design Review Committee that negotiated with Pulaski Partners.

Yvonne Haskins, the attorney representing those opposed to the development, said they will boycott the store. She also plans to file an injunction.

“We might sue,” she said.

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