Wissahickon seeks NCO
Proposed Neighborhood Conservation Ordinance would preserve neighborhood’s appearance
WISSAHICKON » The Wissahickon Interested Citizens Association (WICA) is pursuing the implementation of a Neighborhood Conservation Ordinance (NCO) in the community, intended to help preserve the Wissahickon neighborhood’s historical appearance.
Jeffrey Allegretti, a member of WICA’s zoning committee who is highly involved in the planning of an NCO for the area, explained that the ordinance’s purpose would be to maintain the community’s existing character. Particularly in light of recent and ongoing developments in the area, members of WICA are concerned with preventing any development that doesn’t complement the community’s history.
“The city’s on fire now with hot real estate and lots of motivation for new development,” he said. “Great! Let’s have some development … but let’s not lose our character in the process.”
“Let’s have some development … but let’s not lose our character in the process.” — Jeffrey Allegretti, Wissahickon Interested Citizens Association zoning committee member
While zoning laws already exist throughout Philadelphia that prevent certain developments and changes, Allegretti said, many things are still allowed that disrupt the character of the neighborhood and that stick out in contrast to existing homes and buildings.
“It’s less about forcing someone to make it look exactly like someone else, as it is preventing some egregious new use that may be allowed by zoning but would be com- pletely out of place,” he said. “All we’re saying is that if you come into a neighborhood, you have to respect that culture and character.”
Ultimately, the zoning board would still be the first stop for any proposed new developments.
“This is really about one more protection against insensitive development … so when they file for a permit to do construction, they’ll go through zoning review, and zoning review will say, ‘Yes, that’s consistent. But there’s one more step,’” Allegretti explained.
At that point, anyone pursuing a permit would have to go through the NCO’s requirements, which would be overseen by the Philadelphia City Planning Commission.
While the ordinance has not yet been approved by the Philadelphia City Planning Commission, Allegretti said WICA has been discussing plans for its implementation for about three years. To that end, it has already begun any work necessary on its end in order to present its plans to the planning commission and submitted a draft of the ordinance last month.
Specifically, Allegretti said, volunteers with WICA have re-mapped the Wissa- hickon community’s residential properties and commercial corridor. Over the past two years, members of the association have “photographed every parcel in the neighborhood,” Allegretti said, and they’ve divided the neighborhood into six sections. From those sections, different members of WICA have re-surveyed each block in Wissahickon and “produced his or her own written assessment for each block,” including a list of 10 recommendations to be included in the ordinance.
Allegretti explained WICA presented its draft of the ordinance to the planning commission last month with the understanding that, having re-surveyed the community and created a first draft, the NCO would be placed on the agenda for this autumn. However, due to the number of similar ordinances being requested in other Philadelphia neighborhoods, as well as other issues of importance on the planning commission’s agenda, Allegretti was told that WICA’s request has been put on hold.
Despite that, he and other members of the association plan to speak with Councilman Curtis Jones and his chief of staff, Josh Cohen, as soon as possible to resume work on the ordinance.
While no NCO currently exists in Wissahickon, other local communities have already implemented their own versions. Central Roxborough and Ridge Park civic associations, for example, both instituted their own NCOs within the past two years.