Northeast Times

Council overrides mayor’s medical zone veto

Coun­cil voted against the veto, 16-1. The bill would re­quire zon­ing vari­ances for med­ic­al of­fices and drug treat­ment fa­cil­it­ies, such as meth­adone clin­ics, which re­cently were a point of con­ten­tion at an EKNA zon­ing meet­ing.

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.

You can reach at jloftus@bsmphilly.com.

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