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Civic groups dispute land line in Northwest Philadelphia

Two Pennsylvania civic organizations are each claiming that the land between Scotts Lane and Route 1 in Philadelphia is part of their own community. The Philadelphia City Planning Commission is listening to both sides.

The zoning dispute has the East Falls community group claiming land up to Allegheny Avenue. The Ridge-Allegheny-Hunting Park organization says that area has always been known as Paradise.

East Falls residents point to new development in the area. A fitness center and pharmacy, within the space of the land under disagreement, both use East Falls as part of their names.

The heart of the real estate argument includes the money-generating McDevitt Recreation Center and a development called Dobson Mills. The Allegheny Avenue headquarters for Pep Boys, which has paid $1 million to East Falls Development Corp. as part of a long-term tax agreement, is the biggest sticking point in the land disagreement.

The Philadelphia City Planning Commission has decided to hear out both sides when it comes to deciding on new area zoning applications. Developers would have to make sure it is approved with each group before a zoning decision could be made.

Meanwhile, the real estate tussle continues with RAH members pitting 40-year-old bylaws against the East Falls Community Council's historical data that shows the area in question was once known as the "Falls of Schuylkill." The Falls of Schuylkill is now considered East Falls.

The Pep Boys contract comes up for renewal at the end of the year. Both communities say they are owed the tax benefits. The RAHP group has threatened to try to stop the East Falls Development Corp.'s new deal with Pep Boys or, at least, try to claim a portion of the taxes the company pays.

It will be interesting to see if the Zoning Board of Adjustment can come to a decision in the near future that will please both communities.

Source: Newsworks.org, "Border dispute - where do you draw the line?" Amy Z. Quinn, 22 July 2011

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