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It’s not easy being green space: Developer prevails against city

7/31/2014 | Real Estate Blog

A friend of ours who has a whole array of food allergies has a saying: Just because it’s natural doesn’t mean it’s good for you. A similar sentiment applies in land use: Just because it’s green space doesn’t mean it’s a park.

A strip of land — undeveloped green space — in Roxborough, in northwest Philadelphia, is at the center of a dispute between the landowner, the city and a city councilmember, and a neighborhood association. The dispute raises questions of the government’s power of eminent domain as well as land use principles in general. It also touches on abuse of power within the city council.

The property owner, a developer named Greg Ventresca, has owned the land since 2005. The site, he reckoned, was perfect for a housing development. Close to a park, zoned as residential, with access to water and sewer lines and a road running through it — the only thing the parcel needed were minor improvements to the road; the proposal did not call for any exceptions or variances. The City Planning Commission approved the 48-home development.

The property’s proximity to the park, however, worked against Ventresca’s plan when he met with the neighborhood association. While some members approved the plan, the residents with homes closest to the site did not. They believed the land was part of the park and pushed back: The neighborhood wanted to preserve the green space. The president of the association explained recently that the full group generally adopts the opinion of the neighbors nearest to the proposed development; in this case, then, that opinion was not favorable.

The district councilmember stepped into the fray to protect the interests of his constituents. According to a Commonwealth Court judge, in fact, the councilmember may have overstepped into the fray.

We’ll continue this in our next post.

Source:, “Councilman Jones under ‘bizarre’ eminent-domain fire in Germany Hill development lawsuit,” Alan Jaffe, July 28, 2014