Category Archives: Zoning

E Mt Airy – Germantown Flash Flooding & Rezoning

Northwest Philadelphia’s Wingohocking Sewershed (maps below) is in a serious catch-22 situation because the historic Wingohocking Creek was enclosed into the City’s combined sewers many years ago. Key points:

  • Numerous areas in the Wingohocking are prone to both surface flash flooding and sewer backups from stormwater.
  • There are no designated 50-100 year flood plains because the historic Wingohocking Creek was enclosed in a sewer and FEMA does not consider sewer overflows in flood plain designations.
  • Wingohocking Sewershed homeowners are not eligible for FEMA supported flood insurance even though they may live in flood prone areas.
  • The City has allowed impervious cover in the Wingohocking Sewershed greater than the City’s combined sewers can handle during some flash flooding conditions.
  • Downstream flooding in the City’s combined sewers is caused by upstream stormwater flows greater than the capacity of the downstream combined sewers.
  • Upstream Wingohocking impervious cover contributes to downstream flooding.

The City has a dual role in the E Mt Airy – Germantown flooding situation:

  1. Manage impervious cover to limit stormwater flows to available downstream capacity
  2. Provide adequate combined sewer capacity to protect life and property.

In the Wissahickon Watershed, the City has a Watershed Overlay District that restricts impervious cover to 10 – 45% based on land category. There is no comparable Wingohocking Sewershed Overlay district.  Properties along Germantown Ave between Cresheim Road and Allen Lane have an impervious cover limit while properties from Allen Lane to Washington Lane in the Wingohocking Sewershed have no impervious cover limit.

Wingohocking flooding in September, 2011 caused the drowning death of a young woman who was trapped in her car in 6-feet of flood water near Belfield and Haines( video here). After initial modeling efforts by Water Department and US Army Corp of Engineers, the Water Department issued a Request for Proposals in the fall in 2015, hired a highly regarded engineering firm and received their draft report in the fall of 2018. We are awaiting the release of this critical report.

The City Planning Commission reports that Germantown Avenue is experiencing “rapid redevelopment today”. This argues for immediate zoning controls of impervious cover in the Wingohocking Sewershed, including properties along Germantown Ave.

The Philadelphia City Planning Commission will be holding a Germantown Avenue Rezoning meeting on March 27th. Please contact EMAN, Mt Airy USA, Mt Airy BID and the Planning Commission to ask that the Philadelphia Water Department attend the March 27th meeting and provide information on the Germantown Storm Flood Relief Capital Improvement Plan and address the potential impacts of rezoning Germantown Ave., a new Wingohocking Sewershed Overlay District or other steps they recommend to reduce today’s Wingohocking flooding situation.

We must begin taking steps to protect life and property in the Wingohocking Sewershed.

FloodingGuide_Germantown_Page_12Wingohocking_Simple_MapFlash_flooding_2035_Plan

318 E Durham Street Zoning Variance Request – Trying to Shoe-Horn 8 Apartments Into Small 50 by 80 foot Single Family House Lot

E Durham Street is a quiet residential street in East Mt Airy that includes single family houses and apartments next to SEPTA’s Chestnut Hill East Rail Lines’ Sedgwick Station.

The 93 unit Sedgwick Station Apartments complex has been in the neighborhood since the 1950s and occupies most of the block bounded by E Mt Pleasant Ave, Ardleigh, Sprague and E Durham Streets, except for 2 residential properties: 318 E Durham and 7131 Sprague Streets.

318 E Durham Street Vicinity

Here’s a blow up of the 318 E Durham Street single family  house that the owners of Sedgwick Station Apartments, Galman Group, purchased in 2010 and started renting it out in 2013.

318 E Durham Street House – Purchased by Galman Group in 2010, started renting in 2013.

The 318 E Durham Street Lot is just 55 feet by 80 feet. Galman Group, in their 8/7/18 L&I Zoning/Use Registration Application (link) requested to:

  1. Demolish the existing single family house
  2. Construct an 8 unit apartment building with sales and management office space of  for Galman Group’s 6 Mt Airy apartment complexes.
  3. Install a stationary sign above on the North wall of the proposed building.

318 E Durham Street lot is zoned RSA-3, so L&I refused Galman Group’s request on 8/20/18 (link). L&I found 5 refusal items not in compliance with the Philadelphia zoning code:

L&I Refusal Notice for 318 E Durham Street – 8/20/18

Galman Group promptly submitted an appeal to the ZBA refusal (link) on 8/23/18. Near neighbors were notified of Galman’s ZBA appeal by letter addressed to Current Resident on 9/20/18 (link)

Fitting 8 Apartments and Office in 50 ft by 80 ft Lot

Galman Group is requesting to construct 8 apartment units in a 50 ft by 80 ft lot. They hope to apply RM-2 zoning to their RSA-3 zoned lot.

Zoning in 318 E Durham Street Vicinity

Galman Group wants to demolish the existing single family and construct a new building that extends to the property lines on 3 sides. Here’s a comparison of the existing house and Galman Group’s planned new building:

Galman Groups wants to squeeze 8 apartments into a small 50-by 80 foot lot, ignoring the RSA3 zoning and the residential nature of E Durham Street.

E Durham Street Neighbors are concerned, upset and mobilized. We have:

  • Organized into a multi-block neighborhood group ready to take action
  • Gathered over 70 signatures to our petition
  • Attended EMAN’s RCO meeting on October 2nd in force. Since Galman Group could not answer neighbors zoning variance questions because they did not have an attorney attend the meeting, EMAN requested a continuance of the RCO meeting  until November 20th when Galman is expected to discuss the zoning issues with neighbors.
  • We will continue our fight to Say No To 318 E Durham Street Demolition