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Neighbors challenge university's 30-year development plan

Land use disputes often arise when a large organization such as Wal-Mart or Target wants to build on land adjacent to a residential neighborhood. Certain institutions, such as schools and churches, might appear immune to criticism of their intentions, but when a school announces its intentions to expand its campus over 30 years, the immunity can disappear and a bitter property dispute can erupt. Philadelphia University is experiencing such a reaction to its recently announced 30-year master plan.

The plan was developed over the last two years. The school hoped to be able to take advantage of a new provision in Philadelphia's rezoning plan by being zoned as a "Special-Purpose Institutional Zone," a classification that allows it to develop its campus without making repeated variance and conditional use permit applications. The plan includes new five-story dormitories, a 700-car parking garage and a softball field. The university hailed the plan as a means of giving the community "an understanding of how [the university's] progress might develop."

The local neighborhood was not so enthusiastic. Before the university can receive the Special Purpose Institutional zoning designation, the master plan must be approved by the local community council, and the council is resisting. The council announced that it would not approve the plan unless changes are made. The principal object of the council's concerns is the 700-car parking ramp, which appears to impinge on the Wissahickon Watershed. Individual neighbors are also making their objections known.

Such real estate disputes are often resolved through negotiation, but sometimes the issues can be complex, involving environmental issues, traffic problems and overall impact on the surrounding neighborhood. Attorneys who are experienced in this kind of real estate dispute may be able to offer useful advice to both parties. Real estate attorneys have a wealth of experience from which may come one or more suggestions for resolving seeming intractable issues. If the issues cannot be resolved, the dispute may wind up in court, thereby necessitating the services of an attorney who is experienced in dealing with real estate and land use.

Source: Newsworks, "Neighbors dissent over Philadelphia University's 30-year development plan," John Corrigan, April 1, 2015

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