Drug-clinic plan blasted at zoning hearing

A com­bat­ive at­tor­ney and about 130 con­cerned neigh­bors made for a rauc­ous Zon­ing Board of Ad­just­ment hear­ing last week about a pro­posed meth­adone clin­ic at 7900 Frank­ford Ave.

Neigh­bors learned in Ju­ly that The Heal­ing Way was plan­ning to open a meth­adone clin­ic at the site of a former bar at Frank­ford Av­en­ue and Dec­atur Street.

Mem­bers of the Holmes­burg and May­fair civic as­so­ci­ations mo­bil­ized im­me­di­ately, hold­ing a protest at the site and a pub­lic meet­ing at Ab­ra­ham Lin­coln High School.

The act­iv­ists learned that The Heal­ing Way re­ceived per­mits from the city De­part­ment of Li­censes and In­spec­tions back in Janu­ary. The agency ap­plied to open a med­ic­al of­fice, which is al­lowed un­der C-2 zon­ing.

A hear­ing was sched­uled for Aug. 31 at the ZBA, 1515 Arch St., and op­pon­ents of the clin­ic boarded two buses at Lin­coln’s park­ing lot to travel to Cen­ter City to voice their op­pos­i­tion.

In the end, zon­ing board chair­wo­man Lynette Brown-Sow — who listened to ar­gu­ments along with mem­bers Peter Gonzales and Jeff Rush — put off a de­cision un­til late this month.

At­tor­neys Phil Mc­Fil­lin and Dawn Tan­credi, rep­res­ent­ing the neigh­bors, want the board to re­voke the per­mits, ar­guing that the in­ten­ded use of the prop­erty is dif­fer­ent from the stated use on the ap­plic­a­tion.

“Its ser­vices are broad­er than a med­ic­al of­fice,” Mc­Fil­lin said.

At­tor­ney Carl Primavera, rep­res­ent­ing The Heal­ing Way’s Alan Yan­ovsky, said L&I made the prop­er de­cision.

“The per­mit was is­sued as a mat­ter of right,” he said.

Wit­ness Jeanne Klinger, of L&I, provided testi­mony that seemed to bol­ster Primavera’s case. The Heal­ing Way ap­plied for the per­mit on Jan. 4 and re­ceived it a week later.

Mc­Fil­lin asked Klinger wheth­er C-2 zon­ing would al­low a clin­ic, as op­posed to a mere of­fice. The L&I of­fi­cial read lan­guage in­dic­at­ing that “clin­ic­al ser­vices” are per­mit­ted.

“A clin­ic would give clin­ic­al ser­vices,” she said.

When Primavera asked Klinger about park­ing, she said there are no re­quire­ments to of­fer a cer­tain amount of spaces. She also said there are no pro­vi­sions for neigh­bors to balk at the is­su­ance of a per­mit at the time it is re­ques­ted.

“The com­munity nev­er gets in­volved,” she said, adding that she’d is­sue the per­mit again.

The com­munity is in­volved now. Even if the ZBA rules in fa­vor of The Heal­ing Way and ap­peals are un­suc­cess­ful, neigh­bors plan to lobby the state De­part­ment of Health and fed­er­al of­fi­cials to deny a per­mit to op­er­ate.

Res­id­ents have loc­al pub­lic of­fi­cials on their side. Among those who at­ten­ded last week’s hear­ing were state Sen. Mike Stack, state Rep. Kev­in Boyle, City Coun­cil can­did­ates Bobby Hen­on, Dav­id Oh and Joe Mc­Col­gan and aides to City Coun­cil­wo­man Joan Kra­jew­ski, Coun­cil­man Jack Kelly and state Rep. Mike McGee­han.

However, The Heal­ing Way has the courts on its side. 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.

“The fed­er­al court struck that down,” said Primavera, re­fer­ring to a 2007 rul­ing by an ap­peals court that ruled the law un­con­sti­tu­tion­al be­cause it vi­ol­ated the Amer­ic­ans with Dis­ab­il­it­ies Act.

Primavera said an ap­plic­ant for a res­taur­ant doesn’t have to spe­cify wheth­er it will serve Itali­an, French or Chinese food. Nor does an ap­plic­ant for a med­ic­al of­fice have to list wheth­er it will prac­tice po­di­atry, psy­chi­atry or op­to­metry, or dis­pense meth­adone, which is giv­en to ad­dicts in li­quid form to wean them off drugs.

“We have a fed­er­ally pro­tec­ted right,” he said.

City Coun­cil passed a law pro­hib­it­ing ad­di­tion­al med­ic­al of­fices along Passy­unk Av­en­ue in South Phil­adelphia, but no such law ex­ists for Frank­ford Av­en­ue.

The Heal­ing Way plans to open from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. It will op­er­ate in 4,830 square feet of space. The staff will in­clude a doc­tor, psy­cho­lo­gist, coun­selors and in­sur­ance ad­min­is­trat­ors.

Yan­ovsky es­tim­ated that the clin­ic would handle about 200 cli­ents per day. When he told the board that the prop­erty was nearest to an empty of­fice, a Sun­oco and a 7-El­ev­en, many in the crowd hollered, “and a day care.”

The busi­ness­man ex­plained that he has made $150,000 in im­prove­ments to a space that last housed the Last Call bar. He plans to hire se­cur­ity for the in­side and out­side of the of­fice.

The agency would have en­gaged the com­munity after it re­ceived state ap­prov­al, ac­cord­ing to Yan­ovsky, adding that there were no secrets about his plan.

“The land­lord knew,” he told the board.

However, prop­erty own­er Den­nis Kulp has in­sisted that he didn’t know what the agency planned when he leased the space. Kulp is own­er/broker of RE/MAX East­ern, which is loc­ated in the same build­ing.

“We have blue­prints. He’s known from day one,” Yan­ovsky said after the hear­ing.

Kulp, who is be­ing bashed on Face­book by op­pon­ents of the clin­ic, was un­avail­able for com­ment.

The com­munity hopes it scored points with the testi­mony of Dr. Larry Norton, who op­er­ated sev­en meth­adone clin­ics in Phil­adelphia and Mer­cer and Gloucester counties in New Jer­sey in a 12-year peri­od.

Norton ex­plained that cli­ents could place cot­ton in their mouths be­fore drink­ing the meth­adone, then sell it out­side the clin­ic.

“That’s not an un­usu­al oc­cur­rence,” he said, adding that the res­ults could be dis­astrous if the cli­ent has AIDS or an­oth­er com­mu­nic­able dis­ease.

Norton said he al­ways met with the com­munity be­fore open­ing a clin­ic.

“I didn’t want to sur­prise them with two-hun­dred heroin ad­dicts on their front steps on a Monday,” he said.

As he did dur­ing much of the meet­ing, Primavera tried to steer the is­sue to wheth­er the per­mit was prop­erly is­sued. He wanted to avoid any emo­tion­al testi­mony.

“What he knows about zon­ing could fit in a thimble,” he said in dis­miss­ing Norton’s testi­mony.

Op­pon­ents sub­mit­ted more than 2,700 sig­na­tures of neigh­bors who don’t want the clin­ic to open. Patti Vaughn has lived on the 3600 block of Dec­atur St., a stone’s throw from the front door of the pro­posed clin­ic, for 30 years.

“There really is no place for a couple of hun­dred people to be con­greg­at­ing, wait­ing to get in­to this fa­cil­ity,” she said.

Brown-Sow al­lowed a few in­di­vidu­als to of­fer brief com­ments.

Boyle, the fresh­man law­maker whose dis­trict in­cludes the clin­ic site, said the loc­a­tion is wrong for nu­mer­ous reas­ons.

“There must be ample park­ing,” he said, cit­ing one.

Hen­on, who is seek­ing the seat be­ing va­cated by Kra­jew­ski, pleaded with the board.

“I’m ask­ing you to side with the people,” he said.

Joe De­Fe­lice, pres­id­ent of the May­fair Civic As­so­ci­ation and a board mem­ber of the May­fair Busi­ness As­so­ci­ation and May­fair Com­munity De­vel­op­ment Cor­por­a­tion, took a sim­il­ar ap­proach.

“It’s go­ing to be bad for our com­munity,” he said.

Domen­ick Par­ris, who owns $8 Buck Cuts at 7912 Frank­ford Ave., said prop­erty val­ues will de­cline if the clin­ic opens.

“They’re go­ing to be let off pub­lic trans­port­a­tion, up to five-hun­dred a day,” he said.

The barber shop used to be The Merry Shop, and Mi­chael Ka­plan said the eld­erly wo­man who owned the store would be “rolling in her grave” if she knew what was planned for the block.

“Noth­ing good can come of this,” he said.

He owns Ka­plan’s, a fur­niture store that has been on the block since 1960. He and Primavera clashed re­peatedly, start­ing when he tried to ad­dress the crowd.

“That’s dis­respect­ful to turn your back to the board,” Primavera ex­claimed.

Some in the crowd called Primavera “pom­pous” and a “dis­grace,” and they were some of the nicer re­marks.

Ka­plan called Yan­ovsky a “piece of s—-” and told Primavera, “I’ll knock you out if you touch me again.”

Primavera replied, “I’d like to see this man taken out in chains.”

“That’s it,” Brown-Sow said, ad­journ­ing the hear­ing. ••

You can reach at twaring@bsmphilly.com.

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