Greater Bustleton Civic League members are so concerned about the impact of a zoning board decision that will allow a manufacturing business on a residential block that they’re going to spend big money to fight it.
In a 43-3 vote Nov. 28 at the American Heritage Federal Credit Union on Red Lion Road, league members voted to spend up to $2,000 in legal fees to appeal a Nov. 13 Zoning Board of Adjustment decision that permits the owner of 9997 Haldeman Ave. to legally operate a dental implant-manufacturing business in the house.
The city’s zoners did not explain why they granted a three-year variance for Flore Andresi, said Maureen Greene, the league’s corresponding secretary. The variance was needed because the property is zoned residential.
“There’s nothing in the zoning code that will allow this,” she said, adding that the block is all residential.
However, in an interview Monday, Andresi’s attorney, Shawn Ward, said there is a bank across the street from the property, a fast-food restaurant on the corner and a nursing home nearby, too.
Ward said Andresi has been operating his business at 9997 Haldeman since 2009, when he bought the property, which the attorney said had been unoccupied and for sale for three years. Andresi had a business privilege license but did not know he needed a variance to operate in the building until city inspectors told him at midyear, Ward said.
The fact that nobody seemed to know Andresi was operating a business in the home shows he didn’t adversely affect the surrounding neighborhood, Ward maintained.
“There is a hardship with this property,” Ward said. “Given that this is a heavily commercial intersection, the property might not be suitable for purely residential use.”
League members didn’t see it that way and unanimously refused to back Andresi’s variance application during their monthly meeting Oct. 24. Last week, Greene said all but two of the house’s neighbors opposed the variance.
City Councilman Brian O’Neill (R-10th dist.) also is against it.
“This is not a minor case. This is a major case,” the councilman said in an interview on Friday. “This could be the beginning of breaking down a neighborhood that is solidly single-family homes.”
He said the zoning board’s decision “defies logic.”
But Ward said the three-year variance would give his client time to find a new location and sell his property. Given the opposition from the councilman and the league, Andresi now wants to locate outside the city, Ward said.
Neighbors had expected the zoners would brush aside Andresi’s application during a Nov. 7 hearing and were astounded when they learned it later was approved, league president Jack O’Hara said in an interview Monday.
“This is an industrial use,” O’Neill said. “It doesn’t belong in a discussion of a residential block. I’m glad the civic association is appealing it. It’s very important to dig in your heels and protect the neighborhood.”
The councilman said he recommended five experienced lawyers for the league’s consideration.
“He has been a lot of help to us,” O’Hara said.
He said he has gotten fee quotes from the attorneys. A lawyer hasn’t been picked yet, he said.
Last week, Greene said the first step is to ask the zoners to reconsider their decision. If they don’t, the league will take its appeal to Common Pleas Court. The appeal must be filed by Dec. 12.
If that appeal fails, the next step would be to take the case to Commonwealth Court, she said, but the league’s board then would have to ask members to approve more expenditures.
O’Neill feels that an appeal to Commonwealth Court would be a slam-dunk for the league. O’Hara said the board wants to keep fighting but will follow members’ wishes.
ldquo;Our feeling and passion is to go the distance,” O’Hara said Monday. “But it is a decision that’s ultimately left to the membership.” ••
Reporter John Loftus can be reached at 215-354-3110 or firstname.lastname@example.org