April 26, 2011
Commissioner Philadelphia Department of Licenses and Inspections
11th Floor, Municipal Services Bldg.
1401 John F. Kennedy Blvd. Philadelphia, PA 19102
Dear Ms. Burns:
I am writing today to express significant concerns regarding the construction and development of a discount retail complex, including Sav-A-Lot and Dollar Tree stores, in the historic Germantown section of Philadelphia. It is my strong belief, and the belief of many of my constituents, that this newly devised project, which is far more expansive than the original plan to offer an upscale, fresh food grocery store at the development site, violates the intent of current city zoning requirements, and raises several questions as to the environmental safety of the project.
Since the abrupt closing of the Fresh Grocer on Chelten Avenue, and the realization that the development company has vacated its original plans to renovate the store and instead take on a much larger construction project, I have received thousands of emails and letters from concerned citizens voicing their opposition to the new plans. This opposition is based upon the development company’s lack of respect for those living in this neighborhood, and the exclusion of local involvement in determining what development projects would best suit the community.
Over the last few months, I have been working with constituents, and I stand with them to oppose this new development project. For one, I agree with some members of the community that the new plans violate City Ordinance 050341-AA, which protects historic Germantown from being inundated with discount retail outlet stores, such as a Dollar Store.
In addition, shifting from a fresh food grocery store like Fresh Grocer to a discount grocery store like a Sav-A-Lot, strays from the original intent of the proposed site development. The development company received funding from the Fresh Foods Financing Initiative, which was created by the federal government to bring fresh, healthy foods to underserved populations. This federal money, along with millions of dollars in state funding, was provided to the development company with the sole purpose of building a 50,000 square foot Fresh Grocer supermarket. The fact remains that funding was provided for a specific proposal that never materialized, and now the funding is being used for a completely new discount retail complex.
I have also contacted the federal Environmental Protection Agency, as well as the state Department of Environmental Protection, to express significant concerns regarding the environmental suitability of this new construction project; a project that far exceeds the original development plans. The location of this new project was the site of a serious gas leak back in 1990. Although the state DEP does not believe the impacts of that gas leak would restrict future development of the site, they have requested information and data from the development company, and have been ignored.
Since there is a history of contamination at the site, one would think the development company would want to restrict liability and provide groundwater data and other environmental information to the community prior to new construction. The residents of this community deserve to be protected from potential environmental dangers associated with this new construction and the new development plan.
Given all of these questions and concerns, I urge the city to stop construction on this site, and carry out all enforcement and regulatory options at its disposal, to protect the residents of Germantown. It is my strong belief that all questions and concerns regarding this development must be answered.
Thank you for your consideration of this request. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions or concerns.
ROSITA C. YOUNGBLOOD
Democratic Chairwoman Gaming Oversight Committee 198th District
Cc: Honorable Michael Nutter, Mayor Councilwoman Anna C. Verna, President Councilman Frank DiCicco Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell Councilman Curtis Jones, Jr. Councilman Darrell Clarke Councilwoman Joan L. Krajewski Councilwoman Maria D. Quiñones-Sánchez Councilwoman Donna Miller Councilwoman Marian B. Tasco Councilman Brian J. O’Neill
Councilman W. Wilson Goode, Jr. Councilman William K. Greenlee Councilman Bill Green Councilman Jack Kelly Councilman James Kenney Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown Councilman Frank Rizzo, Jr.