At a session on Monday, April 22, Nether Providence Township Commissioners Micah Knapp (3rd Ward) and Kaitlin McKenzie (4th Ward) hosted neighbors who shared opinions on and asked questions about two potential avenues of development of the property at 310 Wallingford Avenue in South Media.
Property owner Sarah Peck of Progressive Housing Ventures, who has presented several options for development of 310, was not at the meeting but returns to the Township administrative office on Thursday, April 25, for the scheduled Commissioners’ legislative meeting, at which the board will decide whether to entertain Progressive’s proposal for a change of zoning of the property from R-3 to R-5. The prevailing R-3 zoning allows “by right” construction of up to ten homes on the five acre site. A change in zoning to R-5 — which would need to be supported by both township and county planning commissions — would allow greater density. The sketch that Peck showed to commissioners on April 11 represented 32 smaller duplex homes, though the actual number that could practically be built on the site in either zoning scenario is open to question.
Many of the neighbors’ concerns and questions had to do with practical aspects of development’s impact on storm water handling, stream flooding and erosion, emergency vehicle access, and traffic safety. But there are also questions that resist easy answers: which plan would be more aesthetically appealing; what will be the impact of each plan on township property tax revenues and class size in local schools; how can the fabric of community best be preserved in a historically middle class African-American neighborhood that is already gentrifying and pricing some families out of South Media?
At the Monday session it was apparent that support for and opposition to the higher density plan does not break along neighborhood lines. Some residents of South Media — the section of the township where the property lies — and also of adjoining neighborhoods felt that higher density development would yield more affordable homes and greater economic diversity, while others fear that lower prices would diminish adjacent home values. Some township residents have also suggested that rezoning this property would set a precedent that could be used to create new subdivisions.
Should the commissioners reject the proposal to take the next step toward rezoning consideration, Knapp said, “Barring any request to reconsider or litigation, I expect that Ms. Peck would then move forward with the approved, by-right plan R-3 plan.”