As the deadline nears for the Zoning Board of Adjustment to present its findings of fact to the city office of the prothonotary, opponents of a proposed methadone clinic in Holmesburg want the operator to know their passion remains high.
“We’re not going away,” said Rich Frizell, president of the Holmesburg Civic Association.
Frizell was among dozens of people who gathered last week outside the proposed site, at 7900-04 Frankford Ave. (at Decatur Street). Methadone is used to wean people off drugs and is usually dispensed in a powerful liquid form.
The Healing Way has eyed the vacant 4,830-square-foot property — the former Last Call bar that closed in 2008 after a shooting outside the establishment — since early last year.
The property is zoned C-2, which allows for commercial activity such as a medical office.
The Healing Way obtained permits from the city Department of Licenses and Inspections in January 2011, and neighbors were unaware of plans for the site until last summer. An opening was not imminent, since renovations were not completed and the agency needed approval from the state and federal governments.
A state law prohibiting methadone clinics from opening within 500 feet of a school, playground, church, park, house or child-care center was struck down in 2007 as unconstitutional by a federal appeals court, which cited the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Building owner Dennis Kulp, the longtime broker/owner of the adjacent RE/MAX Eastern, insisted he did not know which type of medical office Healing Way planned to open.
Some 800 people rallied against the plan last July in the Abraham Lincoln High School auditorium.
Last August, a hearing was held in front of the Zoning Board of Adjustment.
The ZBA took its time, waiting until March to issue a ruling revoking the permits. The Healing Way appealed to Common Pleas Court.
By Aug. 6, the zoning board must give the reason for its decision. The Healing Way has until Sept. 4 to file its brief with Common Pleas Court.
Attorneys Dawn Tancredi and Phil McFillin, who represent the neighbors, must file their briefs by Oct. 1.
Oral arguments on the legal merits will take place on Nov. 5 in the City Hall courtroom of Judge Idee C. Fox.
Whichever side loses in Common Pleas Court will likely appeal to state Commonwealth Court.
Tancredi and McFillin, who work for the Mattioni law firm, attended the July 19 rally, which took place on the one-year anniversary of the first community gathering to oppose the clinic.
The attorneys have been working pro bono, but the community is asking residents to send checks or money orders for $10 to their Market Street office to pay for further expenses.
City Councilman Bobby Henon pledged the first $500 for the legal defense fund.
“This sleeping giant is not going to rest,” Henon said.
Henon’s pledge was matched by state Democratic Reps. Kevin Boyle and John Sabatina Jr. and Republican Al Taubenberger, president of the Greater Northeast Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce and Boyle’s re-election opponent.
“You are not wanted, Healing Way,” Boyle said.
“It’s not good for a neighborhood, and it ain’t good for business either,” Taubenberger said.
Others at last week’s rally included Mayfair Civic Association president Joe DeFelice, representatives of Mayfair Town Watch, Tacony/Holmesburg Town Watch, the Greater Bustleton Civic League, Holme Circle Civic Association and the Tacony Quality of Life Coalition and aides to state Sen. Mike Stack and U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz.
“We’re going to chase these clowns out of here,” said Mayfair Town Watch president Milt Martelack, who passed off his megaphone to other speakers.
Joe Nicoletti, president of the Tacony/Holmesburg Town Watch, said the facility would attract “scumbags” and “sleazeballs.”
Nearby business people oppose the clinic.
“It’s not going to be good for anyone,” said Domenick Parris, who co-owns $8 Buck Cuts, at 7912 Frankford Ave., with his wife Dawn.
“It will kill the neighborhood,” said Dan DePalma, whose family owns a venerable bakery on Decatur Street. ••EndFragment