WMAN zoning committee wary of West Sharpnack Street project

Leery of the developer behind the project, the West Mt. Airy Neighbors’ zoning committee recently voted unanimously not to support two variances tied to a proposed three-story house on West Sharpnack Street.

Ivan Stelmakh wants to build a three-bedroom home at 118 W. Sharpnack St., which is currently a vacant lot. Stelmakh needs to enlarge a side yard, which is drafted as three feet wide but needs to be eight feet wide, and does not wish to provide a parking space on the property.

Ralph Pinkus, who chairs the committee, said that the variances shouldn’t be difficult to obtain without civic support.  WMAN, however, has had issues with Illya Chebotar, the project’s developer, in the past.

A project in 2007 was particularly problematic, said Pinkus.

“As I recall, Mr. Chebotar did demolition on [29 W. Upsal St.] and started construction without the necessary zoning approval or a building permit,” he said. “We had to get the city to stop work.”

After all work ceased at the site, Chebotar met with WMAN and presented drawings of the finished exterior. WMAN approved of the project’s details.

But when construction was completed, Pinkus said the property looked “considerably different from what was presented to the community and [the Philadelphia Zoning Board of Adjustment].”

The committee voiced concerns Wednesday night that the Sharpnack Street project had some inconsistencies reminiscent of the Upsal Street experience.

Pinkus said there were inconsistencies with the side yard’s measurements. A refusal from the city’s Department of Licenses and Inspections and an appeal document stated it would be three feet. A blueprint of the project said it would be four feet.

“What’s presented to us is not what was presented to L & I,” Pinkus said. “We have a history with this developer of not following by the rules and already we have something that is not consistent.”

Zen Mazurkevich, the architect who presented the project to WMAN on Wednesday, promised to supply the committee with documentation along with consistent plans.

Following the meeting, Mazurkevich said he doesn’t see why the committee didn’t support the variances.

“We are respecting the character of the street,” he said, noting that the house will be Victorian like the rest.

Neighborhood opposition

Still, several neighbors also voiced concerns about the project. Four residents showed up to the committee meeting.

Al Gray, a neighbor who said he lived next to another one of Chebotar’s property, alleged that Chebotar stole electricity and water from him during construction. It’s a claim Mazurkevich denies.

“[They] start[ed] building it…using my water to build it, mix the concrete,” Gray said. “[They used] the electricity box on the side of the house and my electric bill was crazy.”

Gray also claims that the pipes to the house were not set up properly and that the city didn’t inspect it until after the house was under new ownership.

“Nobody from city inspected because nobody had permit,” he said. “These are my neighbors and we have to look out for each other because nobody else will.”

Catherine Bollers, who lives next door to the proposed site, said she remembers problems with Gray’s neighbor’s pipes well.

“When I heard about this construction, I was worried about where their pipes are going,” she said.

Pinkus said WMAN will be writing the ZBA a letter explaining why they are not supporting the zoning variances. A ZBA hearing for the project is scheduled for Feb. 13.

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