Old City Civic Association Disbands Its Anti-Development Committee

Some developers have seen the Old City Civic Association’s frequent objections to new projects in the neighborhood as obstreperous and stifling. Others have seen the same objections as essential bulwarks to the destruction of the neighborhood’s historical legacy. Whatever the opinion, OCCA has decided to disband the committee that fought the battles against developers–both those of large projects, like 205 Race, and smaller ones, like a corner bar.

Though resident neighborhood developers claimed in a recent City Paper article that OCCA had too much power, the Daily News reports that behind the scenes the group was bedeviled by expensive lawsuits that challenged whatever control it exerted.

Court records show the association has been sued twice in the past 13 months by businesses over liquor-license transfers. The group also has been fighting a lawsuit by Waterfront Renaissance Associates filed in 2007 after neighborhood opposition helped doom its World Trade Center of Philadelphia, a mixed-use complex planned on five acres on Columbus Boulevard.

One term of endearment for such suits is SLAPP–strategic lawsuit against public participation. Temple constitutional law professor David Kairys told the Inquirer that SLAPP is “a rather despicable, purposeful strategy for developers to use their economic power to shut up people who are just community-minded and have a different view about the effects of development.”

As this example shows, SLAPP can be utterly disempowering for a civic association. And depending upon what you think of OCCA–whether NIMBYs or neighborhood protectors–that’s certainly how it seems to have turned out in this case.

Old City civic gets SLAPP-ed one too many times [Daily News]