The year’s first EFCC meeting focused on clearing slates and trying to breathe new life into committees undergoing tensions, challenges, and restructuring. Council also addressed traffic, street repairs and Spring 2016 event planning — plus, a tour through featured artist Brendan Siltman’s exhaustive portfolio.
Whew. Last night’s meeting was over an hour and a half long — or, in old-school recording terms: about five batteries, two cameras, and an SD card. As usual, I’ll summarize here and you can follow along in the raw video footage. (Note: we didn’t post every minute, just what seemed to us the most relevant and representative.)
As the night’s featured artist fiddled with his laptop/projector screen/etc, president Bill Epstein shared the council’s sadness at the passing of dedicated volunteer & former 2nd EFCC vice president Claire Stilley last December. Plans are underway to re-name the council’s annual Volunteer of the Year award after Claire (also, life-long neighbor Linda Norris passed a card around for everyone to sign for Claire’s parents).
New local business owner Brian Beard addressed the audience, next, announcing he’d taken over the Allstate office on Ridge early November 2015 and was looking forward to getting involved with the community. A South Philly native (“Point Breeze — but it wasn’t like it is now when I was growing up”), Brian graduated Central High, then college in Virginia, followed by some time raising his family in Illinois. He and his wife moved back to the area (Collegeville, PA) about four years ago, and are hoping to grow a family business here in East Falls.
One of the reasons Brian chose to invest in an Allstate franchise is how community-oriented the company is, and Brian’s eager to get started — he’s already organizing a fire prevention event for East Falls’ five daycare centers, stay tuned for details and, meanwhile, stop in and say hello to Brian next time you’re in his neck of the woods. He’s a nice guy, totally worth a pop-in.
Leza Perkins, an aide to Rep. Pam DeLissio, spoke next and left a bunch of printed info about PA’s budget, and announced a slew of meetings on the docket. For a run-down, Pam’s Facebook page has all the details, and also please stay tuned on this website for Pam’s new column on our Contributors page (which will be linked to high heaven for your convenience).
Next came the Community Council’s featured artist, Brendan Siltman and… ummmm… Hmmm. I have no words. Does “Kaufmanesque” apply — Andy or Charley, either one — or am I reading too much into this? Representative clip provided here, please see the end of post for his full, 17+ minute presentation.
After the treasurer’s unremarkable run-down, Bill presented for Events, announcing a call for Flea Market volunteers and hopes for an even bigger event this year, thanks to plans in the works for vendors to once again occupy inside the park as well as the perimeter (as long as they can protect the grass).
Bill also mentioned how EFDC is no longer sponsoring East Falls’ bike race block party, so the executive council is considering picking up this event. If so, volunteers of all kinds will be needed.
Paul Elia’s recap of EFCC’s dog park committee’s progress over the years provided the first of the evening’s several head-scratchers — although overall he offered a fair & accurate explanation of what the group has accomplished (except he left out the part where the committee fundraised & rendered architectural drawings for the land behind Trolley Car without first checking to make sure the property was actually available).
The puzzler here is how the group seems dead-set on what comes across as really complicated, expensive plans that kinda feel over-and-above what most dog owners we’ve spoken with say they want: just a nice, basic fenced-in area to run their dogs off-lead (like the Roxborough Dog Park, which a lot of local dog owners make use of).
But EFCC’s dog park committee has a particular style of dog park in mind — with rather high-end design. For instance, instead of grass or wood chips, the group feels a product called K9 Grass is best. This artificial, anti-microbial substrate is easy to clean and attractive to look at but also adds hundreds of thousands of dollars to dog park construction (06:50), and even limits where such a park can go — this is why a dog park was rejected at McMichael, btw (06:22).
Hmmm… Paul also seemed to suggest that when Parks & Rec declined the committee’s plans at Inn Yard Park, it wasn’t because they opposed *any* dog park there, but rather they felt the area was too developed for the renderings submitted (01:20).
Did anyone consider scaling back on the plans? Morgan Bound has suggested on NextDoor how a little bit of fencing could portion off a narrow strip of grass that could be a nice dog run, at least while the Council works on a more official dog park in East Falls. Maybe the $3000+ volunteers have donated to date might be used to purchase some chain link or temporary enclosure as we wait on Community Council’s more involved plans? Hmmmm…
Todd Baylson’s zoning report started off tantalizingly enough, by addressing recent “house-keeping” on EFCC’s zoning committee that speaks to a tension he’s been finding here lately, stemming from an inherent conflict in the RCO process.
Registered Community Organizations were created to give “near neighbors” a voice on development adjacent to their property — however, sometimes these projects are for the betterment of the community, which leads to tension. Todd went on to explain new efforts to clarify our local zoning variance procedures, after which Meg Greenfield suggested more discussion beforehand is only fair (11:31) so it seems the committee is still ironing things out, here.
Todd also announced EFCC’s “13-ish member” zoning committee is interested in outreach — they’d especially like to see more women, and have identified specific geographic areas they feel could use more representation in the neighborhood. (01:53)
So now I’m wondering: although there’s no cap on the number of people allowed on the zoning committee, there is an application process. What’s the deal with that? Looks like EFCC doesn’t just want input from neighbors, but Council is weighing skills sets and experience levels… Investigating possible conflicts of interest… Seems a thorough, and very subjective vetting process.
Is there a reason the community doesn’t vote on zoning issues by a show of hands at general meetings, like other RCOs we’ve observed? I could see how a specialist zoning committee could be useful but more to bring members up to speed, not vote for them. Hmmmm…
Finally, John Gillespie’s traffic report which named tons of streets up for some sort of maintenance or improvement or traffic-calming etc. but offered no real dates or details from what I could gather. Basically, the Walnut Lane bridge repairs are next then after that Lincoln Drive by the Wissahickon creek but then also the East Falls bridge so, yeah…
In other news, the speed cushions on Schoolhouse seem to have worked — at least, speeds are down from the 40’s to the 20’s (the posted limit), according to the findings of a recent traffic study.
Also, the red brick part of Coulter Street will likely need repaving, and the City probably is not going to shell out to replace it. Understandable, but still: boo, asphalt. That’s a pretty street the way it is, shame to lose it. BTW, Bill and John seemed kinda angry about this “repair” work, almost as angry as they appeared when they complained about noisy school buses ripping thru the neighborhood.
Which leads us to one final “Hmmmm” — apparently, these school buses don’t have to go through East Falls at all…? Long-time EFCC member Phil Hineline pointed out, the bus company isn’t just randomly being assholes: the light at the intersection in question prevents more than one bus from turning left, so these buses *have* to turn right, or they back up & it’s a whole different nightmare (one where kids are late to school).
Might we have a volunteer who can don a safety vest while the buses are leaving in the morning, and direct traffic so they can get out? Seems a common-sense solution — a project that’d have “Town Watch” written all over it, I’d think. Perhaps someone should reach out for the good of the school kids and our neighborhood, both? Perhaps someone has, and there’s an interesting story here? Hmmmm…
Just curious. Thanks for reading.
PS PLEASE TO ENJOY: EFCC’s FEATURED ARTIST