What had been expected to be a tempestuous hearing on a proposed rezoning in the Norris Square community ran smoothly Wednesday, although some residents claimed that City Councilwoman Maria Quinones-Sanchez was trying to "fast-track" the rezoning to limit a development project.
"The bill is an attempt by Quinones-Sanchez to block the progress of the Norris Square Civic Association's housing development known as St. Bonnie's, while impacting housing alternatives to current homeowners of large residential properties," Patricia DeCarlo, NSCA's executive director, said of the development at the old St. Boniface church site.
The bill rezones an area bounded by York, Front, 2nd and Berks streets from R-10 to R-10A, which would require more scrutiny from city agencies if someone tried to convert a single-family home into apartments. The rules committee voted unanimously Wednesday to move it to the full Council for approval.
DeCarlo said many residents, despite low incomes, own large Victorian houses and want to earn extra income by renting out portions of their houses.
"All those residents who own large homes who had either changed them into apartments or could have changed them into multifamily will now have to deal with [the Department of Licenses and Inspections]," said DeCarlo.
Councilman James Kenney said he was confused by the opposition to the bill. He said most communities have sought out the more-restrictive zoning to keep out-of-state developers from "coming in here and putting up anything they want to. This is a protection for communities."
Gary Summerville, of Mascher Street, praised Sanchez and said people who are speaking out against the rezoning "are being fed voodoo."
"This R-10A gives the community more power and more say in what goes into their neighborhood," he said. "I respect the councilwoman. It's not easy to upset her constituents, but I think it is being done for their benefit, not to upset them."
Quinones-Sanchez said the Norris Square group already has permits to build 15 housing units and the rezoning would not change that. But she has criticized the plan as not serving the best interests of the community.
Quinones-Sanchez thanked residents for their behavior.
"I want to thank the folks from the Norris Square community for not being disruptive," she said. She added she hopes to answer residents' questions more fully at a community meeting May 22 in her district. n