Northeast Times

Lengthy Bustleton Civic meeting focuses on zoning

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Mem­bers of the Great­er Bustleton Civic League aren’t a shy bunch. Any­one who has ever at­ten­ded the or­gan­iz­a­tion’s monthly meet­ings could see how fair a char­ac­ter­iz­a­tion that is.

At the Jan. 25 ses­sion, for ex­ample, a prop­erty own­er who wants to di­vide his par­cel got a dis­ap­prov­ing ear­ful. So did, off and on, Fran Burns, com­mis­sion­er of the city’s De­part­ment of Li­censes and In­spec­tions.

In between, mem­bers heard vari­ous re­quests for sup­port of zon­ing vari­ances with vary­ing de­grees of re­spect­ful at­ten­tion and test­i­ness.

In all, the meet­ing was fairly typ­ic­al in tone, al­though un­usu­al in length — about three hours.

Mem­bers voted on just one zon­ing re­quest. They sup­por­ted a Ve­r­i­zon vari­ance ap­plic­a­tion that will al­low the tele­phone com­pany to put cel­lu­lar equip­ment on a PECO trans­mis­sion tower off of 1998 Red Li­on Road. Ve­r­i­zon presen­ted its re­quest at the league’s Decem­ber meet­ing.

Burns and Tom McDade, L&I’s ex­ec­ut­ive dir­ect­or for de­vel­op­ment ser­vices, at­ten­ded the meet­ing at the re­quest of City Coun­cil­wo­man Maria Quiñones-Sánchez (D-7th dist.) to talk about the de­part­ment and dis­cuss 9432 Roosevelt Blvd., a prop­erty that has long been a con­cern to league mem­bers.

Back in 2009, a plan to site a meth­adone clin­ic on the prop­erty drew so much com­munity op­pos­i­tion that it was scrapped even though no zon­ing changes were needed.

Last year, mem­bers sup­por­ted put­ting an adult day-care fa­cil­ity at the ad­dress, but after the Zon­ing Board of Ad­just­ment gran­ted the ne­ces­sary zon­ing vari­ances, the prop­erty was not sold to the com­pany that was go­ing to op­er­ate that day-care cen­ter. In­stead, it was sold to Mer­ck Real Es­tate LLC of Blooms­burg, Pa., which is re­fit­ting the long-va­cant build­ing for med­ic­al and of­fice use.

Mem­bers com­plained to Burns that they be­lieved work had be­gun in the fall be­fore the prop­er build­ing per­mits had been ob­tained and that, since ob­tained, the per­mits either have not been prop­erly dis­played or don’t cov­er the work be­ing done. No one from Mer­ck was at the Jan. 25 meet­ing.

“We have had quite a few con­cerns and 311 calls … about the work be­ing done,” Burns said.

Burns told the crowd the work had been in­spec­ted more than once and that it was be­ing done prop­erly, which led some mem­bers to ladle out some scorn about the wor­thi­ness of the in­spec­tions. 

One mem­ber com­plained that L&I em­ploy­ees “don’t make people dot their ‘i’s or cross their ‘t’s,” so work could have the ap­pear­ance that it wasn’t be­ing done cor­rectly or the work per­mits wer­en’t be­ing prop­erly dis­played.

John McK­eever, the league’s pres­id­ent, said Burns had to leave and prom­ised to for­ward to her any oth­er ques­tions the mem­bers had.

Mem­bers then heard re­quests for sup­port for high­er-than- al­lowed fen­cing, an over­sized shed, an out­door park­ing space and for Randi’s res­taur­ant on Grant Av­en­ue to be al­lowed to have a pi­ano play­er as well as mak­ing one ten­ant space for the res­taur­ant. Randi’s ban­quet room cur­rently is con­sidered a sep­ar­ate ad­dress.

Mem­bers’ ire be­came ap­par­ent when they heard a re­quest by prop­erty own­er Gene Ster­in to re­lo­cate his lot line at 9708 Bustleton to cre­ate, in ef­fect, two lots — one res­id­en­tial and one com­mer­cial.

Cur­rently, the par­cel con­tains a res­id­ence that is ren­ted out and a com­mer­cial build­ing that now has a pro­duce store. Be­cause the single prop­erty con­tains both res­id­en­tial and com­mer­cial zon­ing, the strict­est reg­u­la­tions, in this case res­id­en­tial zon­ing rules, ap­ply to the whole prop­erty.

Every time Ster­in wants to do something new on the com­mer­cial por­tion of his prop­erty, he has to get zon­ing board ap­prov­al. If the prop­erty is di­vided in­to sep­ar­ate res­id­en­tial and com­mer­cial lots, he won’t have to do that.

At­tor­ney Ron­ald Pat­ter­son’s ex­plan­a­tion of Ster­in’s zon­ing ap­plic­a­tion drew a lot of ques­tions as well as com­ments from mem­bers. Many of the prop­erty’s neigh­bors at­ten­ded the meet­ing and com­plained about Ster­in’s ten­ants, along with noise, smell, trash col­lec­tion, park­ing and traffic prob­lems.

One res­id­ent asked Pat­ter­son what the com­munity would be­ne­fit by sup­port­ing Ster­in’s re­quest. The at­tor­ney’s ques­tion-for-a-ques­tion reply of “What det­ri­ment?” promp­ted some grumbles.

If Ster­in wants to con­tin­ue seek­ing the league’s sup­port, he’ll have to come to the league’s Feb­ru­ary meet­ing along with the oth­er ap­plic­ants.

Civic league mem­ber Maur­een Greene en­cour­aged res­id­ents to op­pose Ster­in’s re­quest be­cause the cur­rent zon­ing forces him to try to ob­tain league back­ing for any mat­ter he brings be­fore the Zon­ing Board of Ad­just­ment. Greene said mem­bers shouldn’t give up the only con­trol they have.

Ster­in’s zon­ing board hear­ing on his ap­plic­a­tion was held earli­er this month, but no de­cision was made, McK­eever said on Fri­day.

The league’s next meet­ing will be Wed­nes­day, Feb. 22, at 7:30 p.m., at the Amer­ic­an Her­it­age Fed­er­al Cred­it Uni­on on Red Li­on Road.  Mem­bers then will vote on some of the zon­ing is­sues brought be­fore them in Janu­ary.

McK­eever said a Krewstown Road church also will make a re­quest for sup­port for use of a build­ing on its prop­erty at the Feb. 22 ses­sion. ••

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You can reach at jloftus@bsmphilly.com.

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