Wis­sahickon seeks NCO

Pro­posed Neigh­bor­hood Con­ser­va­tion Or­di­nance would pre­serve neigh­bor­hood’s ap­pear­ance

The Review - - Front Page - By Kier­sten McMona­gle

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.

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