Opponents of a proposed methadone clinic at 7900 Frankford Ave. last week directed their ire at the man who leased the property.
Dennis Kulp is owner/broker at RE/MAX Eastern, at 7908 Frankford Ave. He owns the building that consists of the real estate office, an electrical supply company, 11 apartments and the proposed clinic.
Neighbors learned in July that The Healing Way was planning to open a clinic at the site of the former Last Call bar at Frankford Avenue and Decatur Street.
Members of the Mayfair and Holmesburg civic associations protested at the site and held a public meeting at Abraham Lincoln High School.
As it turned out, The Healing Way received permits from the city Department of Licenses and Inspections way back in January to open a medical office, which is allowed under C-2 zoning.
While the state passed a law in 1999 prohibiting methadone clinics from opening within 500 feet of a school, playground, church, park, house or child-care center, a federal appeals court ruled in 2007 that the law was unconstitutional because it violated the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Kulp has insisted that he didn’t know that The Healing Way planned to operate a methadone clinic, which would dispense the drug in liquid form to help addicts kick their habits.
He’s written a letter to the state Department of Health in opposition to a permit to operate.
The lease began in March.
“At the time, there was no mention that the property would be used as a methadone clinic,” Kulp wrote to Dr. Eli Avila, secretary of the state health department.
However, Alan Yanovsky, who plans to operate the clinic, testified at an Aug. 31 Zoning Board of Adjustment hearing that Kulp knew his plans all along.
Both sides continue to wait for a ruling from the zoning board. Neighbors want the ZBA to revoke the permits because the paperwork indicated that The Healing Way wanted to open a mere medical office.
Attorney Carl Primavera, representing Yanovsky, said C-2 zoning permits a clinic. He was backed at the zoning hearing by an official with L&I.
Whichever side loses the zoning case will likely appeal to the courts. Before the clinic can open, it will also need permits from state and federal agencies.
The Healing Way plans to open from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. and operate out of 4,830 square feet of space. Yanovsky has made $150,000 in improvements to the office and estimates that the clinic would handle about 200 clients a day.
“Where do two-hundred people park?” furniture store owner Michael Kaplan asked at last week’s anti-Kulp rally.
The L&I official who testified at last month’s zoning hearing indicated that there were no parking requirements.
Milt Martelack, an Aldine Street resident and the rally organizer, believes that Kulp made a “selfish business decision.”
“Boycott Mr. Dennis Kulp and all his interests within RE/MAX Eastern,” Martelack said into a megaphone.
The real estate office was closed during the rally, which began at 5:30 p.m. on Sept. 22. A clinic opponent placed a sign on the office door that read, “Dennis Kulp ‘Blockbusting.’ Selling out NE Philly.”
Kulp did not return a call for comment.
State Rep. Kevin Boyle called the proposed site “an absolutely terrible location.”
Glenn Devitt, a Wissinoming resident and president of the largely inactive United Northeast Neighbors, said the possible clinic opening is another sign that, “We’re under siege here in the Northeast.”
During the rally, engaged couple Kyle Risinger and Christine Myers of Oakmont Street walked by with their 2-year-old son.
Risinger, 28, and Myers, 32, take methadone at the SOARCorp Recovery Center, at 9150 Marshall St.
“They have no idea what they’re talking about. It makes me so mad,” Myers said of clinic opponents. “They have the wrong idea about people. We’re people trying to get help. We’re not bad people.”
Added Risinger: “It helps people, it really does. I’ve been on it for three and a half months, and I haven’t touched a drug. It’s like alcoholics. It works if you want it to work.”
“We don’t think you should be on the corner of Frankford and Decatur,” Kaplan, the furniture store owner, told them.
“See yas in a couple months,” Myers replied.
In response to a question about rumors that Kulp and Yanovsky are eyeing a more remote location on State Road, Primavera said he had not heard of those plans.
City Councilwoman Joan Krajewski also is unaware of another site. Krajewski arranged for two attorneys to represent the neighbors. They are working pro bono for the Democratic City Committee. ••
Reporter Tom Waring can be reached at 215-354-3034 or firstname.lastname@example.org