Temple-area improvement district gains no consensus at hearing

Posted: March 14, 2012

LANDLORDS in North Philadelphia were on opposite sides of the fence yesterday over a proposed neighborhood improvement district (NID) near Temple University.

Dozens of residents, landlords and developers showed up for a City Council Rules Committee hearing to testify on a bill sponsored by Council President Darrell Clarke. He said he introduced the bill in response to complaints about trash, Temple students partying all night and developers dumping construction debris.

Under the bill, landlords who own rental properties and businesses would be asked to pay up to 10 percent more in real-estate tax to help pay for security, streetscaping and cleaning services, totaling $450,000 a year. It would affect nearly 3,000 properties.

"We need to deal with some of the activity as it relates to student housing, and I think this may be the most appropriate," Clarke said, adding that if residents vote against it, it won't happen.

Clarke changed some controversial language in the bill that gave substantial voting power to Temple and the landlords, including increased community representation on the board of directors and equal voting power. Other amendments allow only the city to impose liens, rather than management, and prevent the district from purchasing property.

The proposal would be killed if 51 percent of the affected landlords sign a petition against it. Longtime property owners in the area fear the NID would allow Temple and developers to take over the area.

"This is not about trash and greening. It's about taking care of our community," said Vivian Vanstory, a longtime resident who owns two rental properties. "Outside developers have been able to take control of our community."

But some landlords said they would welcome the NID.

"I dream of the day when there won't have to be any security doors or window-security bars in North Philadelphia, when a resident can walk home from the subway at 11 p.m.," said Peter Crawford, an NID supporter and North Philly landlord whose tenants include Temple students. "Working together, we can make that day a reality. But it's going to take more resources than what the city can offer."

Another hearing will be held in 45 days.

Contact Jan Ransom

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Read her blog, "PhillyClout" at www.phillyclout.com.

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