Zoning board denies appeal for AAA on Columbus Boulevard

A proposal to build a AAA car repair and insurance office on a vacant lot on Columbus Boulevard is in trouble following a decision of the zoning board earlier this month. The board voted to reject AAA’s appeal of a decision of the Dept. of Licenses and Inspections revoking a permit that L&I had previously issued.

If that sounds convoluted, then I have described it accurately.

Last summer, AAA applied for a permit to build its new office on a property that sits within the Central Delaware Waterfront zoning overlay. The day after the application was filed, a new overlay took effect, one which is meant to implement the civic vision for the Central Delaware, and which prohibits automobile-oriented uses like the one AAA sought to develop.

Many months later, in January of this year, L&I actually issued the permit. Neighbors soon found out that there was a proposal to build an auto-centric facility on the waterfront—and on one of the primary access streets, no less, the exact sort of thing the overlay was meant to prevent—and appealed the permit.

It turned out that even though the use itself wasn’t prohibited at the time the overlay was filed, it was required to go through a Plan of Development approval with the City Planning Commission. And the applicants hadn’t done that.

AAA then went through the Plan of Development review, figuring that if the proposal got the Planning Commission’s approval, the permit issue would be a moot point. But the Planning Commission didn’t approve the Plan of Development. And then L&I revoked the permit.

AAA appealed, claiming that it had vested rights in the property because it had already started demolition and construction work before the permit was revoked. City Solicitor Andy Ross argued that any work done within the first 30 days after a permit is issued, the period during which a permit can be appealed, is done at the applicant’s own risk.

And earlier this month, the zoning board voted to side with the city and reject AAA’s appeal.

AAA will appeal the ZBA decision to the Court of Common Pleas, according to their attorney, Carl Primavera. 

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