Proposal for apartments near airport slowed down

Posted: June 13, 2012

Eastwick residents burst out in cheers after a proposed zoning change that would allow Korman Residential to redevelop acres of green space near Philadelphia International Airport was tabled during a City Council hearing Tuesday.

"We have shown them that this community does have a voice," said resident Carolyn Moseley. "They're not going to come through and act like we don't exist."

Korman wants to build a 722-unit, two-story apartment complex, but residents from the flood-prone area have complained of being left out of the process and were concerned about storm-water management, traffic, crime and wildlife.

CEO John Korman said that he was disappointed. "It was always our intention to work with the community," he said.

The bill, sponsored by Councilman Kenyatta Johnson, would change the zoning of the area from single-family owners to multifamily rentals. He decided to hold the bill after hours of testimony in front of the Rules Committee.

That may affect a recent court settlement and the city's ability to acquire 79 acres of the land for the airport from Korman. It is not yet known how the land would be used, but the airport has agreed to return to Council before developing it.

The land at 84th Street and Lindbergh Boulevard is owned by the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority, and Korman has development rights. In 2007, the city condemned a parcel of the land to expand an employee parking lot and Korman received $7.5 million, said an administration source.

Korman appealed, arguing that the land was worth $23 million, Sara Kalb, with the city law department, told Council. The Board of Revision of Taxes' Board of View ruled that Korman should have received $13.5 million plus damages. Both parties appealed and the board urged the city and Korman to reach a settlement. The city agreed to pay Korman $9.6 million and grant the zoning change, in return for Korman giving up development rights.

"The settlement deal is not available if the property is not rezoned," said the source, adding that the administration approached Johnson about the zoning proposal. "If it's not reached, we could be on the hook for much more."

Councilman Jim Kenney was uneasy about the proposal's connection to the settlement. "We're basically paying someone to get out of the way who has held a number of parcels for 50 years and never developed it," Kenney said, adding that he would not vote for the bill. "I don't like the linkage and I don't like not being told about the linkage."

Johnson said he still thinks that the project is a good idea, but he wanted the community to have more input and wanted the city to address flooding issues. A bill that would transfer the land to the city for use by the airport is set to be debated Wednesday at a 10 a.m. Council hearing. n

Contact Jan Ransom at 215-854-5218 or Ransomj@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter @Jan_Ransom.

|
|
|
|
|