Northeast Times

Methadone clinic owner defends action to open a facility in Holmesburg

Michelle Yanovsky says she and fellow clinic owners had preferred another site.

 As Holmes­burg and May­fair res­id­ents plan for what is ex­pec­ted to be a big pub­lic meet­ing on Tues­day night about a pro­posed meth­adone clin­ic, one of the fa­cil­ity’s own­ers is speak­ing out on her com­pany’s plan.

 Michelle Yanovsky and her husband, Alan, are among the owners of The Healing Way, which is looking to open a clinic at Frankford Avenue and Decatur Street.

 ldquo;We’re not here to ruin the neighborhood,” MIchelle Yanovsky said in a statement she read during a telephone conversation. “Our goal is to clean it up and make it better.”

 Yanovsky said the clinic would have security guards, adding that the number of people visiting the site each day would be much smaller than the 800 figure that some opponents have suggested. Earlier testimony has put the figure at closer to 200 patients per day.

 Many neighbors oppose the clinic because it is close to homes, businesses, churches, schools and daycare centers.

 According to Yanovsky, The Healing Way was willing to move to a property at 7520 State Road, farther away from residences. She indicated that elected officials canceled meetings that could have led to the State Road property’s rezoning.

 ldquo;We wanted the State Road property,” she said.

 As it stands, the area could be home to two methadone clinics.

 In April, the Zoning Board of Adjustment approved a bid by NorthEast Treatment Centers to open a clinic at that State Road site. The Mayfair and Holmesburg civic associations, along with some State Road businesses, oppose the facility. Attorney Frank Bennett will take the community’’s appeal to Common Pleas Court.

 In June, Common Pleas Court Judge Idee C. Fox sustained an appeal of a ZBA decision, enabling The Healing Way to open a clinic at 7900-04 Frankford Ave., assuming it can obtain permits from the state Department of Health.

 Attorneys Dawn Tancredi and Phil McFillin, who represent neighbors opposed to the clinic, immediately vowed to appeal.

 Clinic opponents include the Holmesburg, Mayfair, Winchester Park, Holme Circle and Tacony civic associations; the Mayfair Business Association; the Mayfair Community Development Corporation; the Mayfair and Tacony/Holmesburg Town Watch groups; and City Councilman Bobby Henon, state Reps. Kevin Boyle and John Taylor, state Sen. Mike Stack and U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz.

 All are asking neighbors to make contributions to the Mattioni law firm to fund the appeal by Tancredi and McFillin.

 The Healing Way wants to open a clinic in a first-floor tenant space on the northwest corner of Frankford and Decatur. The facility would dispense methadone, which is used to wean addicts off drugs. It is usually administered in liquid form.

 The fight over the clinic dates to January 2011, when the city Department of Licenses and Inspections issued a use permit for the Frankford Avenue site, and THW obtained building permits for interior alterations of the 4,830-square-foot property.

 Neighbors appealed L&I’’s issuance of the permit.

 The zoning board heard the appeal in August 2011, but did not issue a ruling until March 2012. The board determined by a 4-1 vote that a methadone clinic  — — unlike a medical office, hospital or medical center — — is not a permitted use of a property that is zoned C-2.

 The Healing Way appealed that ruling to Common Pleas Court, and Fox heard arguments in December 2012. A city lawyer sided with THW at the hearing.

 In her June 19 written opinion, the judge determined that a methadone clinic is a permitted use of a C-2 property, and that the zoning board was wrong to rule otherwise. Thus, THW can seek permits from the state health department.

 Neighbors opposed to the clinic fear loitering, a decline in property values and a financial harm to existing businesses.

 The property that The Healing Way wants to use has been vacant since 2008, when the Last Call bar closed after a shooting outside the establishment. The clinic would operate daily from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. and would serve about 200 patients per day.

 Next week’s public meeting is set for Tuesday, July 16, at 6 p.m. at Abraham Lincoln High School.

 On this past Tuesday, opponents gathered outside the proposed site to formally announce the appeal to Commonwealth Court and to encourage people to attend the meeting at Lincoln.

 Boyle, Taylor and Henon attended the news conference.

 ldquo;When you look at all the facts,” Boyle said, “it is clear that this site is not a good location for a methadone clinic. It would have a significant negative impact on the neighborhood and residents in the area.”

 Yanovsky said she did not expect anyone from The Healing Way to attend Tuesday’s public meeting. ••

Reporter Tom Waring can be reached at 215-354-3034 or twaring@bsmphilly.com

 

You can reach at twaring@bsmphilly.com.

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