Did the City of Philadelphia Turn Its Back on a Civic Group?

The potential development site in Bustleton

Much of this will seem unreal. But if the allegations of an 80-year-old civic group are true, it appears the City of Philadelphia is allowing an out-of-town corporation to sue the group for doing what the City of Philadelphia asks Registered Community Organizations (RCOs) to do.

Philadelphia asks neighborhoods to become organized, adopt by laws, register with the City, and participate in zoning issues. Philadelphia calls such groups “Registered Community Organizations” and uses the groups to ensure that neighbors have a say in the development where they live.

The Greater Bustleton Civic League (GBCL) did exactly what the City asked. And now, according to an interview that will play on Hall Monitor this Wednesday at 6 pm, the City is allowing an out-of-town developer to use its financial power to sue both the GBCL and its Board.

The out-of-town developer, Relteva LLC, wants to turn a site surrounded by Bustleton residents, miles from a major highway, into a 1.1 million square foot warehouse for UPS. It will add almost 5000 more vehicles, many tractor-trailers, to streets that are already overcrowded.

The volunteer members of GBCL raised the money to pay for a professional analysis. After reviewing it, the group concluded the development would hurt the Greater Bustleton community’s quality of life. GBCL went to court to challenge the out-of-town developers’ right to build.

The developer instead of accepting the Community’s right to protect itself, decided to sue. It sued not only the group but each and every member of the Board of the group as individuals. These suits, usually called “Slapp Suits” (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation), are outlawed in many States and Cities, but not in Pennsylvania and not in Philadelphia.

The more paperwork CDC files, the higher the legal fees are for the group to defend itself. Fortunately, the group has insurance, and the civic group hopes the insurance will cover the cost of the lawsuits, but there are no guarantees. And if the insurance stops paying, no one can predict what will happen to the members of the RCO.

While no one, other than the executives at CDC, can say for sure what its goal is, it certainly appears that CDC is attempting to threaten the neighbors with high legal bills and the threat of losing their homes, to stop the group from fighting for what the neighborhood wants.

During our interview with the President of GBCL, we asked for our viewer’s help.
The group believes that not a single city official has reached out to the neighbors to ask what the City can do to help. Not the Mayor, not a single council person has said they will demand that the out-of-town developer drop its lawsuit and stop trying to intimidate Philadelphians, who are only doing what the City asked them to do, represent their neighborhood in zoning issues.

Lance Haver, Hall Monitor’s Consumer Reporter and a leader of an RCO in his neighborhood is asking other RCO members, or anyone who believes community groups have a right to participate in zoning issues without being threatened with the loss of their homes, to join him in sending, please send an email to the Mayor and the Council Member who represents that area and ask: What are you doing to help the Greater Bustleton Civic League?

Click here and send your email. Mayor Kenney: [email protected] Council Member O’Neil: [email protected]

The message can be as simple as asking why they will not support the Greater Bustleton Civic League.

Hall Monitor is seeking comment from Relteva LLC and if they have any response, it will be read on air on Wednesday night

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