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Zoning battle over proposed gym and apartment complex

Residents in the Fishtown neighborhood of Philadelphia have been expressing concern over a developer's plans to rehab a now vacant industrial building at the corner of Memphis and Columbia into a residential complex. When complete, the project would have 57 separate apartments and a fitness gym. As with many battles before zoning boards, local residents' concerns can be summed up in one word: parking. They fear that 57 new apartments, plus a popular business like a fitness center, will attract a lot of traffic, and available parking in the area will be overwhelmed.

Opponents of the proposal concede that they are not pleased with the building's current empty status, rendering a bit of an eyesore. But one of them expressed concern because he currently has to walk blocks to his home after parking at night. The developer is scheduled to speak at a zoning board meeting, seeking approval for variances needed to proceed with both the apartments and the gym.

Experienced zoning and land use attorneys know that parking and other aspects of a new development impact surrounding and existing land uses and must be considered in mapping out a strategy for seeking the approval of a project. Both legal requirements and practical considerations must be considered.

The majority of neighborhood residents affirmatively voted on the proposal earlier in 2013, and the real holdouts appear to be those living within 500 feet of the building. The developer cites studies that indicate that a growing number of apartment residents are abandoning car ownership if they live in the city and points to the fact that there is a nearby mass transit station.

CBS Philly, "Plans for new apartment complex, gym causes Fishtown feud" Cherri Gregg, Sep. 07, 2013

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