Maggie’s Café remains heated topic in East Torresdale

They’ve been in con­tact with more gov­ern­ment of­fices and agen­cies than they ever could’ve ima­gined or feared.

City Coun­cil, the De­part­ment of Li­censes and In­spec­tions, the De­part­ment of Streets, the Po­lice De­part­ment, the Pennsylvania Li­quor Con­trol Board, the Bur­eau of Li­quor Con­trol En­force­ment and Com­mon Pleas Court are among them.

Yet, a group of East Tor­res­dale res­id­ents op­posed to op­er­a­tions at Mag­gie’s Wa­ter­front Caf&ea­cute; say they still haven’t got­ten the sat­is­fac­tion they’ve been look­ing for.

Dur­ing the June 13 meet­ing of the East Tor­res­dale Civic As­so­ci­ation, a rep­res­ent­at­ive from yet an­oth­er gov­ern­ment en­tity — the city’s Com­mis­sion on Hu­man Re­la­tions — pro­posed an­oth­er pos­sible solu­tion to their prob­lems.

Mean­while, the newly hired zon­ing at­tor­ney for Mag­gie’s briefed neigh­bors on the busi­ness’ plans for ex­pan­sion. The bar/res­taur­ant is on North Delaware Av­en­ue just south of Aren­del Street.

“It’s really an act of faith on both sides. The little prom­ises are build­ing blocks,” said Jo­nah Roll, a mem­ber of the com­mis­sion’s com­munity re­la­tions staff, speak­ing of the agency’s com­munity me­di­ation pro­cess.

Since the bar/res­taur­ant opened two years ago, many neigh­bors have been at odds with the fa­cil­ity over a vari­ety of is­sues in­clud­ing out­door din­ing and mu­sic, park­ing on nearby res­id­en­tial lots and al­leged mis­con­duct by pat­rons out­side the busi­ness.

Oth­er neigh­bors say they reg­u­larly pat­ron­ize the busi­ness and have spoken in sup­port of its op­er­a­tion.

In re­sponse to com­plaints, the city’s De­part­ment of Li­censes and In­spec­tions and the state’s Li­quor Con­trol En­force­ment have each is­sued code vi­ol­a­tions no­tices to the busi­ness. In re­sponse, own­er Kev­in Good­child has scaled back some out­door activ­ity while seek­ing to ex­tend the site’s per­mit­ted uses to ad­ja­cent lots that he also owns.

Those ex­pan­sion plans don’t sit well with op­pon­ents of the busi­ness, who claim that Good­child has dis­reg­arded pri­or de­mands by neigh­bors that he turn down the mu­sic and keep a check on dis­rupt­ive be­ha­vi­or around his es­tab­lish­ment.

“He just took everything too far,” one neigh­bor­hood wo­man said. “I don’t mind the tables he has now, but it car­ries on in­to the night, and that’s what people don’t want.”

“If he wants to take it all in­side, I don’t think people will have a prob­lem with it,” an­oth­er wo­man said.

But the pro­pri­et­or has oth­er plans in mind. Speak­ing briefly at the meet­ing, Good­child said the size of his in­vest­ment in the wa­ter­front prop­erty dic­tates that he max­im­ize in­come there.

So he has ap­plied to the city for sev­er­al new zon­ing-re­lated per­mits. One ap­plic­a­tion is to con­sol­id­ate the Mag­gie’s prop­erty with a va­cant lot im­me­di­ately to the north once oc­cu­pied by a ca­ter­ing busi­ness, as well as an empty res­id­en­tial prop­erty to the south, where he wants to leg­al­ize cus­tom­er park­ing.

Neigh­bors com­plain that his cus­tom­ers already park on the lot in vi­ol­a­tion of the ex­ist­ing zon­ing.

“If it’s denied, I will be ap­ply­ing for a vari­ance,” said Shawn Ward, Good­child’s zon­ing at­tor­ney.

The busi­ness is also ap­ply­ing for a “spe­cial as­sembly li­cense” that would al­low it to play mu­sic with­in cer­tain para­met­ers. Ward ar­gued that be­cause the site has been home to a bar for dec­ades, mu­sic play­ing should be “grand­fathered” there. The city or­din­ance cre­at­ing the spe­cial as­sembly li­cense was ad­op­ted in 2005, the at­tor­ney said.

Fur­ther, Good­child will ap­ply for mul­tiple ad­di­tions, in­clud­ing men’s and wo­men’s bath­rooms that would have in­door ac­cess and, ul­ti­mately, out­door ac­cess if out­door din­ing is later ap­proved for the busi­ness.

Good­child also hopes to build a new walk-in re­fri­ger­at­or at the rear of the ex­ist­ing res­taur­ant.

Ward said that the own­er is will­ing to com­prom­ise with neigh­bors on their key is­sues.

“If we don’t come to an agree­ment, we ex­pect people will come down and hash it out be­fore the Zon­ing Board [of Ad­just­ment],” Ward said. “Our goal is to come to an agree­ment be­fore then.”

A zon­ing hear­ing has been sched­uled for Ju­ly 6, but Ward said that the ap­plic­ant would re­quest a post­pone­ment if pro­gress is made with neigh­bors be­fore then. An ETCA ex­ec­ut­ive board meet­ing is sched­uled for June 27.

The group’s next gen­er­al meet­ing, which is open to the pub­lic, will be on Tues­day, Ju­ly 5, at 7 p.m., at Liberty Evan­gel­ic­al Free Church, Linden Av­en­ue and Mil­nor Street.

In un­re­lated top­ics:

• A con­struc­tion en­gin­eer from the Phil­adelphia Wa­ter De­part­ment told res­id­ents that wa­ter and sew­er main con­struc­tion on State Road, between Linden and Grant av­en­ues, would con­tin­ue through Decem­ber.

Total re­pav­ing may not be fin­ished by then, however, al­though the four-lane State Road would be pass­able. In such a case, pav­ing would be done after the winter.

ETCA vice pres­id­ent Bill Kennedy said that the civic as­so­ci­ation would con­tin­ue to lobby pro­ject of­fi­cials for more tree plant­ings along State Road. Crews cut down 52 dec­ades-old trees along the street, Kennedy said.

The civic group wants four young trees planted for every ma­ture one taken down to ac­count for the smal­ler size of the new plant­ings, as well as the like­li­hood that many of the trees will not sur­vive for the long term.

• The ETCA took an of­fi­cial “no po­s­i­tion” on an ap­plic­a­tion by a loc­al com­mer­cial prop­erty own­er to build a fam­ily home on the site of his con­struc­tion com­pany’s headquar­ters at 9309-13 James St.

Long­time neigh­bor­hood res­id­ent George Ash­croft said he plans to live in the new house with his fam­ily, des­pite the light in­dus­tri­al zon­ing. ••

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