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Will Parking Improve With Neighborhood Improvement District?

Wissahickon Neighbors begin dialogue to see if program fits the neighborhood.

The Wissahickon Neighbors Civic Association wants to be proactive about the parking problem that plagues residents.

However, with a small budget at their disposal, there's little the neighborhood group can do on its own to convince the city or developers that Wissahickon should have its own parking lot.

President Andrew Bantly on Monday began a dialogue to see if establishing a neighborhood improvement district could actually change parking, and other problems, persistent in the neighborhood.

"Since I became involved with the civic, I've always heard, 'What are we going to do about parking? How come we can't get a developer to pave a parking lot?'" Bantly said. "I want to reach out and figure out what's available for us to purchase as a community."

The discussion Bantly held at the group's monthly meeting was an informal, preliminary talk to see if there's any interest from association neighbors in pursuing a neighborhood improvement district (NID).

Essentially, a NID charges its members additional fees on top of their property taxes. It creates an organization with a professional staff that is entirely devoted to that neighborhood—whether that means acquiring and managing property, cleaning the streets, or other projects.

When asked if he had any specific ideas, Bantly said Souder Roofing at 3824 Manor St. is a property that could be available and able to be converted to a lot. But it will take more than civic's money to procure it.

Bantly distributed Pennsylvania and Philadelphia requirements (of which there are many) of what it takes to establish a NID, including:

  • Drafting a budget and priority list of projects;
  • Creating specific boundaries for the neighborhood;
  • Holding public meetings and earning neighborhood consent; and
  • Securing Philadelphia City Council approval—among others.

City Council President Darrell Clarke has sponsored a program to create a NID around Temple University for security and cleanliness, which will be funded by the university and landlords.

In February, some Callowhill residents unsuccessfully attempted to create a NID. Other residents opposed the project, because they didn't want to add a 7 percent property tax to fund street cleaning and tree planting.

The revenue source would be one of several issues a Wissahickon NID would have to grapple with.

"Some people say, 'Why would we pay more? Isn't that what the taxes are for in the first place?' Others think it's a worthwhile allocation of money," Bantly said.

If landlords or businesses control the NID, then neighbors lack as much input but don't have to front the bill. If it were the other way, neighbors would control what gets done, as it's their dime.

Unlike Philadelphia taxes that go to the municipality at large, the money for the NID would go directly to Wissahickon projects.

"It creates local jobs, and is hopefully self-sustaining," Bantly said.

Bantly's goal Monday was to float the idea. Next month, he may bring in a NID expert to answer residential questions and see if the idea is worth pursuing.

"I wanted to put this all in your heads. Now you can digest it and see if it's something that's right for our neighborhood."

The civic next meets June 4 at .

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