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Sharp St. Houses—Neighbors Seek Concrete Parking Promises

Civic association questions parking claims on project.

Nate Torok walked away from the Wissahickon Neighbors Civic Association meeting Monday without the approval he sought, but it could have been a lot worse.

Resisting an urge to oppose his plans to build four houses at 3728 Sharp St. because it thought parking was fuzzy, the group voted to table a decision.

The developer, from iBuild LLC, seeks to construct four new, adjoining, three-bedroom, 2.5 bath, 3,000-square foot, three-story homes. Currently, the property exists as garages, which he says are dangerous and are sparingly used. The homes will cost $375,000, and have the option for green roof. He needs a zoning variance for an additional office on one structure and permission for two-car parking pads.

However, neighbors doubted some claims. 

"Personally, I want to review this and find out more information. I want to talk to my contacts in the city about these code issues," civic President Andrew Bantly.

Generally, a developer submits designs to the civic's zoning committee prior to the meeting for review. Although he original paired down the project's scope from five to four homes, Torok himself said the new plans came in Monday, so he wasn't able to do that. 

One big discrepancy was whether the city would count the two parking space as such. Torok said it allowed for one full spot and one compact spot; Bantly said he wanted to check on the legality of it.

The civic previously granted Torok permission to build similar homes on the adjacent Haines Street. That project, Torok admitted, didn't live up to some promises. Bantly said the parking there was too small and cars extend into the sidewalk. He feared this would be a repeat.

Another concern involved the other Sharp Street houses. Essentially, Torok's plans don't remove street parking. However, on Manor Street, neighbors successfully removed street parking from the opposite side of the street due to a narrow turning radius caused by a similar project. Depending on the plans, it could impact the narrow Sharp Street.

Some residents pushed Torok on what possible benefit this had to the neighborhood.

"I'm going to take a dangerous, blighted piece of property and put in beautiful, $400,000 houses," he responded.

Craig Ablin liked the project but still had issues.

"I appreciate you're taking the blighted property and improving it, but parking is a major issues in this neighborhood. We have to see something binding that has the correct parking (included)," Ablin said.

Another neighbor felt residents were unfairly targeting Torok for their parking frustrations.

"You can't fault this guy for the parking problem here," he said, adding he approved of the project.

The civic doesn't officially reconvene until September, which is when the new zoning code goes into effect and whatever implications that may entail for this project.

Bantly said the civic could either vote via email or hold a special meeting if some issues get resolved.

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