PWD officials move forward with Queen Lane Reservoir safety discussions

Recently, representatives of the East Falls Community Council met with officials from the Philadelphia Water Department to review plans for enhanced security measures at the PWD’s Queen Lane Reservoir facility.

The meeting was in response to a presentation given by the PWD at an EFCC meeting held in May, wherein the PWD’s original proposal was opposed by community members, who sounded concern over the amount – and style – of fencing proposed. 

An 8-foot high security fence planned for the reservoir – bearing what was described as an “aggressive” outward curve – was particularly reviled. Under the agreement reached by the EFCC and the PWD, this will be replaced by a straight picket fence.

Previously, plans were also floated to expand the PWD’s parking lot located on Fox Street. The PWD agreed not to expand the parking, and added that the present fence line will be moved back 22 feet, to allow for an aesthetic buffer of plants.

Michael Lavery, design branch manager for PWD, said that after internal discussion, it was determined that plant workers could “make do” with existing parking.

In addition, new LED fixtures will be attached to the existing building, and will feature a cut-off designed to combat glare onto neighboring properties.

Land use compromise 

The one request that was met with reluctance was the setback of a proposed fence line on Queen Lane. Originally, a 100-foot extension was requested by the PWD. In compromise with the community, a 50-foot advancement was agreed to. 

However, at May’s EFCC meeting, Paul Elia, an East Falls-based architect leading the discussions with PWD, lamented the resultant loss of open space and the perceived aesthetic impact on the residential neighborhood adjacent to the facility.

“This was the one issue where we did get resistance,” he said.

PWD and its security consultants were firm on the buffer zone provided by the move, Elia indicated, but they signaled a willingness to regrade the remaining open area to allow for more usable space.

In reference to the regrading – known as “cut/fill terracing,” which shifts soil to provide a uniform level – Elia noted that this agreement would be considerably more expensive for the PWD than moving the fence line.

Asked to estimate the cost of the terracing, Lavery estimated that costs would be approximately $30,000 – sizable, but a fraction of the multi-million dollar price tag that will be attached to the project.

“I think this was not a compromise we were going to win,” said Elia, “but I’m pleased that they agreed and are committed to the cut/fill terracing.”

A ‘collaborative’ design process 

Lavery was pleased with the meeting, which he termed a “collaboration.”

“We’re always thinking about design improvements with other people’s perspectives,” he said. “It works for a better design.”

Lavery said that there is no firm date for work to begin, but he plans to meet with EFCC’s Zoning Committee later this year to finalize landscaping plans and work out a zoning agreement in regard to the eight-foot fence, which must be approved by the city’s Zoning Board of Adjustment.

He expects the bidding process to begin this winter.

“A lot of thought and effort from both sides went into this project,” he said.

Elia agreed, specifically praising the PWD for the agreeing to provide both a site plan and their own landscape architect to suggest additional landscaping and site amenities.

“Their willingness to be open to suggestions concerning LED lighting, sensitivity to the neighborhood aesthetic, and listening to our concerns about fence type will result in a project that benefits all parties,” he said.

Editor’s note: The headline in an earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that an “agreement” was reached between PWD officials and East Falls residents. While many preliminary safety plans were agreed upon between the two groups, a final plan has not yet been approved. NewsWorks apologizes for the error. The corrected version is above.  

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