The Philadelphia City Council will reconsider at least some parts of the ordinance would be excused A private nonprofit foundation pledges a $65 million renovation of the city-owned Cobbs Creek Golf Course from a city environmental ordinance designed to prevent erosion.
An exemption from the city’s steep slopes ordinance would have applied to the entire trail, angering some locals who are still angry at the city’s logging at the site.
The council was due to vote on the exemption on Thursday, but has held off on pursuing potential revisions to the ordinance that would create a special area that would cover the course.
Cobbs Creek FoundationInc., a nonprofit organization that funds restoration of the historic trail, says the exemption is needed to restore the wetlands and complete some parts of the course. Once the course is complete, the institution will rent it back from the city for $1.
Opponents say giving a full exemption would violate the spirit of the ordinance.
Larry Szmolowicz, an attorney who lives near the course, testified at the council hearing Thursday: “If passed the ordinance would create a dangerous precedent for using overlay counties to obtain exceptions for essential environmental protections.” “Protection of steep slopes is environmental protection… to promote safe and compliant development throughout the city.”
Schzmolowicz noted that the foundation previously applied for a zoning permit to cut down 108 acres of trees on slopes but was denied. The application was later withdrawn.
Philadelphia City Councilman Curtis Jones Jr. introduced the legislation to create the overlay district.
Henry Davis, a member of the Friends and Neighbors Coalition of Eastwick, also spoke out against the exemption.
“What specifically worries me about the proposed bill is the lack of public input and transparency and the potential for increased flooding and other environmental impacts,” Davis said.
Many other residents also spoke out against granting the exemption.
But those responsible for Parks and Recreation, which owns the land, said the overlay area is needed to rebuild three miles of creek bed and to help restore the Cobbs Creek Golf Course to its historic 1916 design. The foundation said it would allocate $20 million to improve the creek area and create 37 acres of Wetlands to mitigate chronic flooding, which forced the track to close in 2020.
Enrique Hervada, chief operating officer of the Cobbs Creek Corporation, spoke in favor of the exemption, telling the board that the golf course, which opened in 1916 and is located in the National Black Golf Hall of Fame, was “virtually falling down a creek” and that the renovation was being done “at no cost to the city.” .
“We have been working on this for over 10 years with Parks and Recreation, the Philadelphia Water Department and many other experts on creating a sustainable golf course,” Hervada said, noting that the course would not only boast a new multi-level driving range, but also an on-site education center. 30,000 square feet of space for kids in the area.
Morgan Moore, the foundation’s director of education and community engagement, said the golf course would benefit area residents and “has a great history of racial equality.”
“I urge our city council members to vote unanimously in favor of this bill,” Moore said.