Update: L&I Spokeswoman Rebecca Swanson tells PlanPhilly that the application for the vehicle-related use permit was submitted on June 4, 2013, one day prior to when City Council’s Rules Committee voted to recommend the Central Delaware zoning overlay, on June 5. Legislation that’s approved by Council committee becomes a “pending ordinance” after the committee approval and is enforceable by L&I.
L&I’s own online records indicate that the permit was issued January 2, 2014, nearly seven months after the application was submitted.
Original coverage below:
Earlier this month, the Department of Licenses and Inspections issued a permit to the owners of 1601 S. Christopher Columbus Blvd., a narrow property at the corner of Columbus and Tasker in South Philadelphia, adjacent to Home Depot.
The permit allows for “New construction of facility for the service and light repair of automobiles, retail sales of travel services and insurance and business offices.” The property is zoned CMX-3, for commercial mixed use, which allows most of those uses.
But it’s also in the Central Delaware zoning overlay, which prohibits new vehicle-related uses on properties that front on Columbus Blvd. or on one of the River Access streets. A goal of the zoning overlay is to activate the riverfront areas and make them more friendly to pedestrians.
“We can’t have rational zoning and overlays in the city unless L&I is familiar with the zoning code and overlays and actually reviews law when it issues permits," said Matt Ruben, president of the Central Delaware Advocacy Group.
Ruben said he'd been in contact with L&I and Councilman Mark Squilla, and that they were looking into the permit.
On Saturday, the property was empty of buildings. A crane was resting after the recent demolition of an existing structure.
“It’s the full responsibility of L&I to have the courage and fortitude to revoke improperly issued permits," Ruben said.
PlanPhilly will try to get to the bottom of this issue, which was brought to our attention by another member of CDAG, when L&I returns to work next week.
Jared Brey is a freelance reporter based in Philadelphia. His work has been featured in Philadelphia magazine, Hidden City, The Philadelphia Inquirer, City & State, and other publications. He covered development, zoning policy, historic preservation, and city government for PlanPhilly from 2011-2016.