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ZONING UPDATE: 1357 E. Columbia Project Approved by ZBA

More than an hour of testimony had been heard about various city properties on the 18th floor of the One Parkway Building at 1515 Arch St.

Then, a location that piqued the interest of the Fishtown Neighbors Association last month popped up: 1357 E. Columbia Ave.

The Zoning Board of Appeals approved a variance for a four-floor, single family unit property at that address Wednesday afternoon, which will include an off-street carport, thus eliminating a communal parking spot on Belgrade Street near Columbia Avenue.

Last month, the FNA opposed the project by a vote of 67 for, 76 against. At the hearing, the City Planning Commission also recommended no variance, given the address lied in a RSA-5 zone and not enough hardship was shown on why the off-street carport was needed.

But after testimony, ZBA Chair Carol Tinari, and board members Anthony Gallagher, Thomas Holloman and Confesor Plaza huddled for about a minute. They then unanimously approved the variance.

Leo Mulvihill, the attorney representing Larry McKnight—who wants to move in with his wife and three children to the property—and KJO Architecture, the firm that drafted the proposal, testified during the hearing that 15 townhomes had recently been built across the street, with similar parking parameters. He also noted the community vote was close, especially to residents living within 500 feet of the space—an 8-8 split.

Arthur Meckler, 68, was the lone community member at the meeting. He stated, like others had the FNA meeting last month, that the carport was out of character with the neighborhood, and the loss of a parking space would be significant.

“It’s shocking,” Meckler told Spirit News after the hearing. “Or not shocking, apparently, because this has been a trend by the ZBA to approve things over the community’s objections.”

Mulvihill, however, contended that many of the community’s objections strayed from zoning issues, but understood the parking dilemma.

“In any neighborhood where there’s an issue, the same thing that always seems to arise is parking,” he told Spirit News after the hearing.

An FNA letter sent to the ZBA earlier this month indicated residents were supportive of including an off-street parking spot, but that “communal [street] parking is preferred, especially for only one off-street parking spot.

Meckler said the decision has been following a recent trend in the development of Fishtown.

“Once again, the community loses, and somebody gets their luxury townhouse,” he said. “They privatized city property for the use of one property.

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