An architect's rendering of Bowman Properties' planned retail/residential development at the former Magarity Ford site.

by Pete Mazzaccaro

A group of 12 neighbors who live near or own a business near the former Magarity Ford site, 8200 Germantown Ave., have challenged city legislation that provided the zoning needed for Bowman Properties to move forward with a commercial/residential development for the property.

Bowman Properties plans to build a five-story retail and residential complex on the site, which will be anchored by a Fresh Market grocery store. Bowman negotiated for months with neighbors and members of the Chestnut Hill Community Association to create an agreement to govern the way the building will be built. City Council passed legislation in December to change the property’s zoning in a way that will allow Bowman to develop the parcel according to its plans.

Dan McElhatton, attorney for the group of neighbors, told the Local that neighbors are challenging a City Council bill that changed the zoning of the property on the grounds that it is “unconstitutional spot zoning.”

In testimony before Philadelphia City Council, a copy of which was sent to the Local by McElhatton, the attorney argued that because the zoning bills would benefit only Bowman Properties, it was evidence that both were spot zoning.

“Read together, Ordinances 110672 and 110673 present a clear case of spot zoning,” McElhatton testified. “ The ordinances seek to change the zoning and district controls with respect to a single parcel of land on Germantown Ave. Such spot specific legislation, done to benefit a single parcel developer’s project, are the definition of spot zoning and should not be allowed.”

McElhatton said the filing, which is on the Court of Common Pleas Docket, is not a formal complaint as of yet because Bowman Properties has not filed for permits to begin work.

Andrew Ross, a Hill resident and attorney with the City Solicitor’s Office is representing the city. He did not return a phone call for comment before print deadline on Tuesday.

In community meetings late last year, in which Bowman Properties was seeking Chestnut Hill Community Association approval for its development plans, Bowman attorney Matt McClure argued that legislative zoning relief was not without precedent and was required to make the parcel viable.

Also, McClure pointed out, the legislation that made the market potion of the property C2 commercial reflects the zoning of the rest of Germantown Avenue.