Residents discuss part of the Upper Northwest Plan at the final public meeting on Monday, June 18. (Photo by Ariel, Diliberto, Citizens Planning Institute)

by Diane Fiske

About 160 people learned what their neighbors consider important for the future of their neighborhood at the final Northwest meeting of Philadelphia Project 2035 on Monday, June 18.

The residents came to the third and final session for the Upper Northwest area of Philadelphia at the Lovett Library in Mount Airy in two sessions, one in the afternoon and the other in the evening, where they met Philadelphia Planning Commission members standing next to 20 boards that listed recommendations for change in Chestnut Hill, Mount Airy and Germantown.

The information presented last Monday was collected from local residents in the Upper Northwest region of Philadelphia in two sessions, one in January and the other in April of this year.

Each board was manned by a Planning Commission staff member. People visiting the glassy, recently modernized Lovett Library on Germantown Avenue had a chance to discuss the proposals with the Philadelphia Planning Commission staffer and comment on possible changes to neighborhoods and community spaces.

The Upper Northwest, also called District 18, was the last area of the city to be part of the Philadelphia 2035 project. The other 17 segments of the city have been processed since the project began in 2015 and the changes are underway.

Taking a break from circulating among residents and his Planning Commission colleagues, Ian Hegarty, Director of the District 18 project, sat on a chair near the Lovett Library window and discussed the Upper Northwest project.

“What residents want in changes to their neighborhood is important to learn as we forecast a growth to this area of 100,000 residents and 40,000 jobs,” he said.

There is a focus to obtaining the residents’ point of view.

“The meetings helped us pinpoint areas of concern,” he said. “We learned that our central focus should be on central Germantown and the area around Wayne Junction.

“Second, there is a strong interest in transportation, and handling commercial growth, which should be planned for and not just allowed to happen. People are interested in open space and protecting it.”

In Chestnut Hill and Mount Airy, there are recommendations to change the zoning classifications on big parcels of land, which are being divided to accommodate smaller homes.

“There is a proposal for a new classification for single family residences in certain areas that would increase the minimum lot size from 10.000 to 20,000 square feet,” Hegarty said.

This would apply to areas without a heavy network of streets and where there is a need for ecological protection. The designation would be for large parcels where a single home had been the dominant feature. Hegarty said this would work well in Chestnut Hill and parts of Mount Airy.

“We don’t want to ossify the area but some places need improvement in zoning,’’ he said.

The next step will be a document of possibly 100 pages showing all the proposals, the illustrations and the residents’ comments related to the northwest area that have been accumulated since the first session in January. The documents will be posted in all the libraries in Northwest Philadelphia for residents to study and make comments.

On July 17 of this year, the draft plan would be presented to the Planning Commission at a public meeting. The draft plan would also be published on the Planning Commission website until September 17. Comments from the public and possible suggestions of changes would be accepted by the Planning Commission up to Sept. 14.

The draft document and the public comments would be presented for a vote to the Philadelphia Planning Commission in September.

Once the plan is adopted, city agencies, such as the Streets Department and the Department of Parks and Recreation, will use the recommendations to guide their projects and capital funding.

Community groups, nonprofit organizations and institutions also work to make the recommendations a reality. The Planning Commission and City Council will work with community groups to implement the zoning recommendations.

For more information on the Upper Northwest Plan, see phila2035.org/uppernorthwest

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