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Wissahickon Civic Fights New Battle on Rochelle Ave.

L & I Review Board hears new appeal at 102 Rochelle Ave.

Continuing its strategy to ward off multi-family properties, a Wissahickon neighborhood group faces off against a property owner in court Tuesday.

The Wissahickon Interested Citizens Association takes developer David Branigan to the Licenses and Inspections Review Board again Nov. 27 regarding the future of 102 Rochelle Ave. This is the second attempt from the civic at preventing Branigan from renting out the home to multiple tenants.

WICA Vice President Chip Roller announced the appeal in an email to members over the holiday, calling people's attention to the lengthy battle: "Remember, this unwelcomed process is a marathon not a sprint."

Branigan purchased the property earlier this year from the estate of Edwin Lasota, who rented the home from 1992 2006. After his heirs sold the house, Branigan successfully received a rental license from the city.

However, the civic association asserts the city erred in that decision. It filed two appeals.

WICA lost its initial challenge to the review board and later the Zoning Board of Adjustment. The case revolved around the property's zoning use, which the organization argued should not be multi-family.

The latest appeal, filed by attorney Hal Schirmer, argues a lapsed renewal license should void future ones. According to the appeal notice, the civic argues:

"The property was used or licensed as a rental from 1992 to 2006. The rental use was discontinued for roughly six years, 2006 to 2012. Because the use was discontinued for more than three consecutive years, the rental license should not have been issued, as any variance was abandoned per Philadelphia code 14-104."

Branigan has renovated and flipped houses in Manayunk and Roxborough before. One property, on Baker Street, got support from the Manayunk Neighborhood Council, while another, on Fairthorne, was opposed by Ridge Park Civic Association. Both involved duplex or triplexes.

Attorney Bill O'Brien, who represents Branigan, says his client complies with the city's laws and is simply legally exerting his property rights. He says the buildings by Branigan enhance, not detract, from the neighborhood.

"The civic has a belief that the triplex, by definition, is detrimental to the neighborhood. But a triplex with new hardwood floors, granite counter tops (and other updates) attracts young professionals that will lift this block up," O'Brien said.

The appeal starts at 1:15 p.m. Nov. 27 at 1515 Arch St., 18th Floor.

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