At Monday night’s East Falls Community Council (EFCC) meeting, residents grappled with how to approach a proposal by the City Planning Commission which would alter how residents and business owners in the area between Scotts Lane and Route 1 are represented at the Zoning Board of Adjustment (ZBA).
The City Planning Commission’s proposal would make it so two groups, the EFCC and the Ridge-Allegheny-Hunting Park (RAH) community organization, would share responsibility for hearing the area’s zoning proposals.
Under the proposal, both the EFCC and the RAH would offer opinions on zoning proposals from property owners in the shared area, and then the ZBA would decide based upon the recommendations of both organizations.
Some residents at the EFCC meeting were up in arms about what they foresee as a bureaucratic nightmare.
“If a person wants to open so much as an umbrella in this part of East Falls and one side says no and one side says yes, who knows what will the Zoning Board will do,” Heather Petrone-Shook, a local real estate agent and resident, said.
Her argument underscored the sentiments of several other residents who attended the meeting who are uncertain about what that change would mean for the community and who felt that the EFCC should have taken a vote on the proposal to show its disapproval.
“There’s a lot of people down there who have sizeable investments into those areas and for us to turn around and just say, ‘you’re not in East Falls anymore’—that’s pulling the rug out from under them,” George Grigonis said.
Grigonis was in favor of a vote on the proposal because he felt East Falls would not benefit from the change and the RAH was behind the proposed boundary shift.
“I think it’s very important that we do take a stand on this matter. I kind of see it as they already drew a line in the sand, we have to defend the fort.”
However, Tom Sauerman, the EFCC’s president, said that voting would take the power to negotiate the boundary out of the EFCC’s hands.
“We’ve already taken a position two months ago, saying where our boundary is,” Sauerman said. “If we dug in our heels, the City Planning Commission would then make the decision for us. This is a decision that they have full power to make and they are giving us the opportunity to.”
Sauerman said that he had arranged for a meeting between the EFCC’s executive board and local City Councilman Curtis Jones to discuss the matter. In the meantime, residents who live in the affected area plan to take action on their own.
“I moved here because I thought it was East Falls,” said Mona Zaoudeh, who lives on Ridge Avenue in the area of the proposed boundary change. “I’d like to see development expand but they don’t have to change boundaries to do that.”
She and two other residents from the affected area said that they planned on writing to City Council in the coming weeks.