Last Thursday, Mayor Michael Nutter vetoed a bill that would require zoning variances for medical offices and drug-treatment facilities in the Northeast’s 6th and 10th councilmanic districts.
Council members voted the same day to override the mayor’s veto, 16-1. Bill Green didn’t support the override, according to City Councilman Brian O’Neill (R-10 dist.). He had introduced the measure with City Councilman Bobby Henon, whose 6th District runs from the Port Richmond into the Northeast.
The ordinance had passed unanimously Nov. 21. O’Neill and Hen-on in-tro-duced the bill that cre-ates a “North-east Zon-ing Over-lay” on Oct. 24.
Last week, a councilman whose district runs from South Philly to Port Richmond introduced a similar ordinance.
O’Neill’s and Henon’s ordinance makes it more dif-fi-cult to open up a meth-adone clin-ic in the North-east, but that’s not all it does. The measure doesn’t spe-cific-ally tar-get drug-treat-ment clin-ics, O’Neill said last month. It re-quires new med-ic-al prac-tice in the 10th Dis-trict or 6th Dis-trict to seek a zon-ing vari-ance.
“Med-ic-al prac-tices wouldn’t be al-lowed in-to com-mer-cial prop-erty un-less they talk to the com-munity,” O’Neill said.
Zon-ing vari-ances re-quire com-munity in-volve-ment, and North-east res-id-ents consistently have shown antipathy to drug-treat-ment fa-cil-it-ies in their neigh-bor-hoods. Meth-adone clin-ics, which are fa-cil-it-ies that provide treat-ment for heroin ad-dicts, fall un-der the med-ic-al use cat-egory, and are not defined sep-ar-ately in the zon-ing code.
The bill bans the Med-ic-al, Dent-al and Health Prac-ti-tion-er use cat-egory in all com-mer-cial mixed-use (CMX) dis-tricts, the CA-1 and CA-2 auto-ori-ented com-mer-cial dis-tricts, and the IRMX, ICMX, I-1 and I-2 in-dus-tri-al dis-tricts. The meas-ure al-lows those uses to be es-tab-lished by right only in I-3 heavy in-dus-tri-al and RMX-3 res-id-en-tial mixed-use dis-tricts.
Last week, the Republican City Committee immediately slammed Nutter for his veto.
In a news release headlined, “Mayor Nutter doesn’t care about the residents of Northeast Philly,” the committee said the Northeast already has two methadone clinics with two more proposed that Mayfair and Holmesburg neighbors have been battling.
“The mayor really dropped the ball on this one,” said state Rep. John Taylor, the chairman of the Republican City Committee. “I am disappointed that the mayor has not listened to voices of all City Council and residents of Northeast Philadelphia who have rejected methadone clinics in residential areas.”
City Councilman Mark Squilla (D-1st dist.) last week introduced a similar bill for his district, the lion’s share of which is South Philadelphia.
“I already had issues in my district about doctor’s offices that weren’t really doctor’s offices,” Squilla said in a Dec. 6 phone interview. He mentioned one office in South Philly was little more than a pill mill.
Requiring people who want to put medical offices in a community to talk to that community actually offers the applicant two advantages, Squilla said. First, they get the support of the community, and then they get known by the community. It’s good public relations, he said. “I don’t see how it will hurt.”
He said he expected his measure will have the same fate as O’Neill and Henon’s ordinance. ••