Roxborough civic expresses strong opposition to latest Germany Hill development proposal

The latest proposal for residential development on the Germany Hill area of Roxborough is smaller than previous plans, but the level of opposition from the Ridge Park Civic Association hasn’t lessened.

At its quarterly meeting Thursday night, civic members voted overwhelmingly to oppose property owner Greg Ventresca’s latest vision for developing his eight-acre portion of the 20-acre Germany Hill area. The plan would see 32 rental townhouses created along a portion of Cinnaminson Street, accessed off of Parker Avenue.

Ventresca would need at least one zoning variance for the project, as the land is zoned for single-family homes, not attached dwellings. He and attorney Darwin Beauvais appeared before a full house at the meeting, held at the Fifth District Police Station, but they had a tough sell in front of a civic whose leaders have been vocal and steadfast in their desire to see Germany Hill kept as open space.

Neighborhood concerns 

Access to the site was a particular concern with the latest plans, as it was with two previous versions for which the city gave preliminary approval, in 2005 and 2009. Neither of those developments came to fruition and both were met with resistance from civic members.

The latest version would see access of Parker Avenue, through an unopened part of Smick Street, though the new street would not connect with the already-existing end of Smick, off Fountain Street, to avoid worsening stormwater runoff problems there. The new street would make a broad curve through a wooded, city-owned portion of the site, into a neighborhood with cul-de-sacs at both ends, something Beauvais said was needed to ensure emergency vehicles have adequate turnaround room.

Marlene Schleifer, an RCPA trustee, said moving the area of development closer to Parker Avenue may sound like it answered a concern but pointed out that the terrain of the site is much steeper on that end. Matt Wysong, the city’s community planner for the Northwest, said under the new zoning code the project might require a variance to build on such a steep slope.

Beauvais said the two previous versions of the development would not have gained approvals if the site was not buildable.

“There is approval conceptually of building on this site. It can hold a development,” he said, adding he would submit their land surveys, soil borings and topographical information to the city for review.

As to the access to the site, Beauvais suggested forming a task force of residents to help them determine the best access to the site, but that, too, went over poorly.

“It’s not our job to help you find access to your property,” said RCPA vice-president Patti Brennan.

Preserving the open space 

Previously, City Councilman Curtis Jones Jr. introduced a bill that would have struck a portion of Cinnaminson Street from the city maps, cutting off some access to the site. He pulled the bill after the city Planning Commission voted against it, though his office said this week he remains committed to keeping Germany Hill as an open space.

Jones’ aide, Josh Cohen, appeared at the RPCA meeting to discuss the call for new block captains, but had no comment after the Germany Hill presentation on the plan or Jones’ position on it. After his presentation, Ventresca said Jones’ office was part of discussions for the latest version of the plans.

Some in the audience, especially those living closest to the site, pulled no punches in stating their opposition to building anything on Germany Hill.

“There is no way, nothing, I don’t care if you build a dam, nothing is going to stop that flow [of stormwater runoff], it’s a natural flow,” one resident shouted.

NewsWorks has partnered with independent news gatherer PlanPhilly to provide regular, in-depth, timely coverage of planning, zoning and development news. Contact Amy Z. Quinn at azquinn@planphilly.com.

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