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Residents to contest district proposal

Some community members plan to oppose the proposed improvement district. On Feb. 16, block captains of the fifth council district gathered at the Gesu School at 17th and Thompson streets to plan to act on some community members’ opposition to the North Central Improvement District. The Community Land Trust Corporation, or CLCT, a nonprofit Community… Read more »

Some community members plan to oppose the proposed improvement district.

On Feb. 16, block captains of the fifth council district gathered at the Gesu School at 17th and Thompson streets to plan to act on some community members’ opposition to the North Central Improvement District. The Community Land Trust Corporation, or CLCT, a nonprofit Community Housing Development Organization in North Philadelphia, organized the planning meeting to readdress points made at a previous meeting on Jan. 25.

“The community has to be sustainable itself in order to have a sustainable lifestyle,” Vivian VanStory, of CLTC, said.

VanStory, an opponent of the NID, will testify at a public hearing on March 6 in Ritter Hall on behalf of CLTC and area residents.

“We’re presenting not only signatures but also letters of support [against the district],” VanStory said.

Elouise Edmonds, a city planner and volunteer for CLTC, suggested block captains give a questionnaire to residents who cannot attend regular meetings, so that they may share their concerns with the rest of the community.

“I try to have block meetings but there’s only five or six people that come,” Doris Harris, captain for the 1800 block of Thompson Street, said. “[A questionnaire] is important not just for me but for everybody.”

The NID, proposed by City Council President Darrell Clarke, who represents the fifth district, aims to bring cleaning services, public safety measures, and streetscape enhancements to the area in a span of five years, with a proposed first year budget of $450,000, according to the City Council resolution.

The NID would answer to the North Central Management Corporation, a volunteer board and administrative staff. An allotted $75,000 of the outlined annual budget would be for administration. The board will administer funds for improvement measures.

A major complaint with the NID is the requirement of business owners to pay an assessment fee. CLTC members said they disagree with the use of assessment fees going to a third party rather than to the neighborhood.

Peter Crawford, a developer in the area and a member of the Temple Area Property Association, said landlords will most likely pay less than $300, approximately 7 percent of the annual tax bill.

“The fee that landlords pay…is actually quite a reasonable fee,” Crawford said. “This is not going to create a burden for landlords or for renters for that matter.”

Owner-occupied single-family residences are exempt from the assessment fee.

Temple is expected to give an annual donation to the NID, but has not yet disclosed the amount of the contribution.

Crawford advocates for the NID, saying it brings benefits to all residents, regardless of whether they pay an assessment fee.

“We’ve had a lot of contact with residents in the community,” Crawford said.

He cites considerable support for the NID, but acknowledged that North Philadelphia residents are “not unanimously behind us.”

Crawford is part of an informal “steering committee,” which ultimately answers to the North Central Management Corporation. The committee includes community leaders, Temple administrators, developers, property owners and other community members.

Issues discussed at the meeting also included the construction of Gaudenzia Thompson Street Apartments, a rehabilitation center, the use of open space on the 1800 block of West Master Street and the increase in Temple student renters.

“Each university has a different way of dealing with residents,” David Fecteau, a city planner, said.

Fecteau said some universities have registries of students living off-campus.

“My understanding is that Temple believes [a registry is] too much of a burden,” Fecteau said.

Ray Betzner, assistant vice president of university communications, said there is a proposal to gather such information and create a directory, but acknowledged that one does not currently exist.

Some audience members at the meeting complained about student parties and what they see as division in the community caused by student renters.

“Don’t stop yourself from establishing relationships,” Fecteau said to block captains.

“That way you know what’s going on when you’re not around,” Harris said.

In relation to student-community relations, the university established the Community and Student Issues and Concerns Task Force in September 2011, led by Dean of Students Dr. Stephanie Ives. The findings of the task force have not yet been made public.

Fecteau said he has spoken with Temple, and is working on deciphering trends among students living off-campus. He will compile a “Goals and Strategies” report for the neighborhood.

Amelia Brust can be reached at abrust@temple.edu.

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