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Central Roxborough Civic Association Meeting Minutes
December 6, 2018

CRCA President Celeste Hardester opened the meeting and welcomed those assembled.

Police Update

  • From the 5th District Police, Officer Maurice Scott and Lt. Ervin informed that while thefts from automobiles are down compared to last year, it is still an issue in the community. Lock your car doors and keep valuables out of site.
  • Some community members expressed concern about bike riders being hit by automobiles. Lt. Ervin pledged to step up traffic enforcement.
  • There have been some personnel changes at the 5th District. Malachi Jones is new Captain, and Lt. Ervin is back in Roxborough where he served as a sergeant 10 years ago. He is Captain Jones’ “right hand man”. Dwayne Gordon is the new Lt. for PSA-2 (the area encompassing central Roxborough).

Josh Cohen, Chief of Staff for Councilman Curtis Jones

  • The Councilman’s Ridge Avenue office remains temporarily closed, but you can still come see Mr. Cohen at City Hall.
  • Residents have been receiving letters from the Councilman’s office regarding a sewer line protection program. The program is legitimate, and Mr. Cohen recommends participating in it for the cost of about $8 a month.
  • City Council recently passed at “Good Cause Bill” to extend additional protections to tenants and prevent a landlord from evicting a tenant without “good cause.”
  • Lastly, Mr. Cohen remarked that when Roxborough’s zoning was last remapped, it was foreseen that the parcel at 551 Walnut Lane could potentially be viewed as ripe for development of several properties, and the zoning was changed deliberately to prevent that from occurring by right and limit density. He believes the current zoning is appropriate.

Zoning: 551-553 Walnut Lane (Frost Development Company)

Proposal to keep existing 1920s structure, subdivide parcel and construct 5 new single family dwellings. 14 zoning refusals, most related to yard size/dimensional. The development would have a shared interior driveway with dedicated parking in the rear of each house. The square footage of the entire parcel is about 33,000 sq. ft. The Zoning Board will hear the appeal on Wednesday December 12, 2018, at 2:00 P.M. at 1515 Arch Street, 18th Floor. You may attend the hearing and testify, or you can write to the ZBA with any opinions about the project.
  • The houses along Walnut Lane would be set back from the road, as the City actually owns 30ft from the road inward.
  • All proposed new construction homes would be 3 stories tall, with stonework on the first floor and “board and batten” composite material (looks like wood but is made of PVC to prevent decay) on the upper floors.
  • 2 of the proposed new houses would be a set of twins facing Walnut Lane. A variance is required due to the lack of sufficient rear depth. This is because the drive aisle and parking go to the property line, but the house is set back 30some feet. There were also refusals for insufficient lot width and size.
  • A proposed new construction home at the corner of Walnut and Houghton generated a refusal for not being set back far enough on the Houghton side. The front of the house would face Walnut Lane.
  • The two other proposed properties received refusals for insufficient rear yard due to the drive aisle.
  • The developer is proposing new sidewalks along Kingsley and Houghton Streets.
  • Q: What is the distance from the existing building at 550 Kingsley to the drive aisle? A: 11.5 to 12.5 feet. The developer proposed building a four foot tall fence along the property line.
  • Q: How large are the new houses and what would be the price point? A: Approximately 2,800 sq. feet, all 4 bedrooms, priced in the mid $500,000s.
  • There are some slopes along the edges of the properties, but apart from some grading along the sidewalk, there should not be a lot of disturbance for building the houses because they will be located on the flatter/plateau portion of the land.
  • 8 trees along Walnut Lane will be taken down and some trees will be taken down to accommodate the drive aisle.
  • Q: When do you anticipate starting construction and how long would you expect it to take? A: Construction would begin in spring and be completed within a year. All the homes would be built at the same time, rather than in phases.
  • Q: What could you do by right on the property, without triggering zoning variances? A: We could demolish the existing house and not provide parking and fit 6 new houses on the property.
  • Q: Has the property been purchased? A: There is a zoning contingency in the agreement of sale.
  • A CRCA member suggested extending the stonework from the first floor to upper floors and replacing vertical railings on porches with horizontal railings.
  • A near neighbor of the property asked about the tree line between her property and a one of the proposed new. The developer intends to leave the tree line intact as much as possible.
  • Q: Will the houses have basements? A: Yes.
  • Q: What is the setback for the proposed house at Houghton & Kingsley? A: 25 feet from Houghton, 10.6 feet from Kingsley.
  • Q: How will trash be handled? A: There are dedicated trash enclosures in the rear of each property. At this point there has not been a decision made as to whether there will be a private collection service to pick up trash by accessing the drive aisle or if residents will use public pickup at the front of their houses.

As per CRCA protocol, the representatives for the project were asked to leave and the community continued its discussion of the proposal. Some near neighbors felt, “it could be a lot worse” and expressed appreciating that the existing 1920s house would be preserved and that parking would be provided. Others felt that this was an example of developers overstepping and trying to cram more development where it is specifically forbidden by the zoning code. One person pointed out that the property is currently zoned RSD-3, meaning twins are permitted by right (the “D” stands for “detached”). Some people worried that if this project didn’t go through, another developer could propose something worse that might be approved by the ZBA. CRCA’s zoning committee has reviewed the proposal and had no strong objections. They suggested modifications which were adopted by the developers. It was pointed out that the legally required notices sent to near neighbors had the incorrect ZBA hearing date. The correct date is Wednesday, December 12.

CRCA then took a straw poll to gauge community sentiment about the project.
  • 4 people were opposed to the project.
  • 5 people were not opposed.
  • 18 people voted to support the project with a proviso that the developers will consult with adjoining property owners and provide fencing or landscaping to those who wish it.

As required by the bylaws of CRCA, elections for officers will be held in January. At this meeting, the following proposed slate was presented:

  • President: Celeste Hardester
  • Vice-President: Don Simon
  • Treasurer: Neil Macdonell
  • Board Chair: Lynda Payne
  • Corresponding Secretary: Elizabeth Fischer
  • Recording Secretary: Amy Wilson expressed interest. Your current recording secretary is ineligible to serve due to term limits.

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