Longtime Roxborough resident speaks out against Interac expansion plans

Negotiations are continuing in a long-running dispute between an elderly Roxborough man and the nonprofit Intercommunity Action, which wants to build a 40-unit apartment building next to his house.

James Garvey, 85, who lives on Fairthorne Street adjacent to the Ridge Avenue site that was formerly a parking lot for the Gary Barbera Dodge auto dealership, said this week he is in talks with Interac to come to an agreement — one that could include a buyout of his property.

Interac, the senior-services agency based several blocks down Ridge Avenue from the Fairthorne site, won a competitive $7 million federal grant in December for use on the project. But because the site is zoned for single-family homes, Interac sought — and was granted — needed variances and a zoning certificate.

The project had the support of the Ridge Park Civic Association, but not of Garvey, whose house is separated from the now-empty site by a fence.

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He appealed the decision, saying the building would negatively impact him by blocking light and air to his house. The case went before Common Pleas Court Judge Paul Panepinto, who sent the case back to the zoning board.

A hearing there on Feb. 1 was continued, as the two sides continue talking, and will likely be re-scheduled for next month, said David Bolin, Interac’s president and chief executive officer.

Aside from the effect on his property directly, Garvey said he worries an apartment building would make it more difficult to get to Ridge Avenue.

“The congestion is so bad around here, and we have no light at the end of the street and you can’t get out,” Garvey said.

Bolin said Interac would continue to negotiate.

“These are all understandable concerns, and hopefully we will have the opportunity to come to an agreement, Bolin said.

Garvey, who has lived on Fairthorne Street since 1983, said he may be willing to sell to Interac and move, but wasn’t prepared to support the plan at the zoning board without a formal agreement in place. His lawyer, Deborah Valenti-Epstein, could not be reached for comment.

Plans for The Fairthorne include 40 one-bedroom units, with a community room and laundry facilities on each floor, Bolin has said. Designed for seniors capable of independent living, residents pay rent equal to 30 percent of their income, with a maximum income limit of $25,500. Interac also operates two similar buildings, on Mitchell Street.

Right now, Bolin said, Interac has a list of more than 250 seniors looking for apartments like the ones planned for The Fairthorne.

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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