Proposed stream buffer exemptions would apply to 40-45 percent of riverfront parcels

UPDATED:

An analysis completed by the Philadelphia Water Department shows that around 29 percent of all waterfront properties in Philadelphia have buildings located within the proposed 50-foot stream buffer.

Furthermore, between 40 and 45 percent of parcels on the Delaware and Schuylkill rivers have buildings within the proposed buffer.

City Council’s Committee on Rules had requested more information about which parcels would be affected by proposed amendments to the stream buffer legislation it was considering last week. The amendments, from Councilman Bobby Henon, would exempt parcels with existing structures less than 50 feet from the top of a stream or river bank from the regulation; it would make a new buffer on such parcels to reflect the distance between existing structures and the top of the bank.

Initial reaction from groups involved in discussions over the legislation indicated that the study seemed to reinforce opinions on both sides.

“In my mind,” said Craig Schelter, a spokesman for Development Workshop, “[this analysis] confirms the fact that there are a number of sites along both rivers where this is a serious issue. And in a city that needs jobs, these sites need the flexibility to expand.”

PennFuture’s Andrew Sharp, who has been among the most vocal proponents of a uniform, citywide buffer, said the analysis shows the amendment would allow developers to take advantage of the exemption.

“It’s a huge loophole,” Sharp said, “but we’re talking with Councilmembers and we’re hopeful that it won’t be part of a final bill.”

Representatives of the Water Department and the City Planning Commission were not immediately available for comment.

Contact the reporter at jaredbrey@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter @jaredbrey

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