An artist’s rendering of the proposed 76-unit apartment building at 48th and Chester.

A proposal for a 76-unit apartment building at 48th and Chester will go back to the city zoning board following a court decision in favor of neighborhood groups who oppose the project.

Court of Common Pleas Judge Anne Marie B. Coyle ruled earlier this week that the city’s Zoning Board of Adjustment “had failed to clearly identify any factual evidence” that not granting variances for the building would result in “unnecessary hardship” for the developer. The board can grant variances based on “unnecessary hardship” for a number of reasons, including financial viability.

The project is being proposed on the land owned by an adjacent nursing home – Renaissance Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center. Renaissance owner Meir Gelley is seeking to combine several land parcels adjacent to the nursing home for the proposed development – 4701-15 Kingsessing Ave., 4720 Chester Ave., 4724 Chester Ave., 1115 S. 48th St., and 1119 S. 48th St.

Under the proposal, 20 percent of the building’s 76 units will be set aside as affordable (at 40 percent of the area median income) for a term of 50 years. The rental prices at this level would be in the range of $725 for a one-bedroom apartment, and $870 for a two-bedroom apartment.

Protect Squirrel Hill, a group of nearby neighbors, opposed the project, saying it would lead to higher rents in the area and price out many long-term neighbors. The group submitted a petition to the zoning board with 317 signatures of neighbors opposing the project, including 63 who live within 250 feet of the property.

Councilmember Jamie Gauthier also opposed it, saying during public meetings last year that in terms of residents’ feedback it “dwarfs all other zoning-related matters we’ve encountered since entering office.” But in the same statement she applauded the developer’s effort toward affordability and underscored that the 100 percent affordable units that some are pushing for are likely not feasible. Gauthier, who campaigned on housing justice, also spoke about the “tone and tenor” of the online meetings and conversations on the proposed development.

“I understand the urgent need to achieve housing justice, and the passion that people feel for these issues,” her statement reads. “But the vitriol I witnessed in these conversations sets a troubling precedent for all of us, especially as neighbors are pitted against neighbors, which only make it harder to have open dialogue about development issues moving forward.”

Cedar Park Neighbors (CPN) supported the project, emphasizing the compromise on affordable housing.

“CPN is well aware of the need for more affordable housing options in our neighborhood,” the statement issued last May read. “The current proposal will provide 15 units of affordable housing in a neighborhood that desperately needs it.”

Brett Feldman, Gelley’s attorney, told the Philadelphia Inquirer that the ruling is a temporary setback and that Gelley is still committed to the project.

The Zoning Board of Adjustment is expected to set a date for a new hearing soon.

Source Google News – Read the original article

Judge sends building project at 48th and Chester back to the zoning board – westphillylocal.com

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