The Wissahickon Neighbors Civic Association must decide what's better: a vacant lot or a set of twin homes on a Markle Street property zoned for one, single-family home.
Jerry Olsen bought 490 Markle St. for about $110,000 and proposes to build two attached homes, or "twinkles" as his attorney David Orphanides referred to them, selling for $290,000 each. The homes, after a subdivision, would be four-bedroom, 3.5-bath, three-story, joined structures.
The proposed home, currently a vacant lot in the middle of Markle Street between Ridge Avenue and Mitchell Street, would legally provide one off-street parking space for each home. Orphanides asserted that each driveway could accommodate shotgun or stacked parking—meaning four off-street spaces—an observation the neighborhood group accepted.
"What we're proposing here is to a replace a gap... in the architectural fabric of the block," Orphanides said.
Olsen, who is developing higher-end homes on Silverwood Street in Manayunk, promised his construction trucks won't be gone by 4:30 or 5 p.m. every day (to avoid impacting parking) and he would refrain from closing the street.
"We will be ultra-careful with everyone's homes right now," he said.
A development plan that provides for parking and replaces an unused property is often cheered by neighbors. And no direct opposition took places at the civic meeting Monday. However, residents—in questions to the developer and discussions among themselves—wondered why the property needed two homes.
With four bedrooms, some resident feared that landlords may acquire the properties and rent to college students—depleting the parking provided.
The project requires zoning variances for lot width and total area. Orphanides said 2,600-square-foot lot just misses the zoning code for a by-right subdivision. Additionally, he said they felt the lot too big for only one single-family home.
Although sympathetic, neighbors felt that decision was financially based. Basically, the property owners wouldn't turn enough profit by selling one home.
As Olsen's zoning hearing date isn't until Feb. 19, the civic association pushed a vote until its Feb. 4 meeting. Residents specifically inquired if the house could be narrowed to 14 feet, from 16 feet, to curb party houses.