Zoning remains hot topic at Bustleton Civic meeting

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 jloftus@bsmphilly.com

You can reach at jloftus@bsmphilly.com.

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