On Dec. 5, 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.
“Medical practices wouldn’t be allowed into commercial property unless they talk to the community,” O’Neill said.
Zoning variances require community involvement, and Northeast residents consistently have shown antipathy to drug treatment facilities in their neighborhoods. Methadone clinics, which are facilities that provide treatment for heroin addicts, fall under the medical use category, and are not defined separately in the zoning code.
The bill bans the Medical, Dental and Health Practitioner use category in all commercial mixed use (CMX) districts, the CA-1 and CA-2 auto-oriented commercial districts, and the IRMX, ICMX, I-1 and I-2 industrial districts. The measure allows those uses to be established by right only in I-3 heavy industrial and RMX-3 residential mixed use districts.
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.