Methadone clinic foes vow to keep fighting

A crowd of around 300 was at Ab­ra­ham Lin­coln High School on Ju­ly 16 to protest pro­posed meth­adone clin­ic.

  • A heated debate: About 300 people attended the July 16 meeting at Abraham Lincoln High School. BRAD LARRISON / FOR THE TIMES

  • A heated debate: About 300 people attended the July 16 meeting at Abraham Lincoln High School. BRAD LARRISON / FOR THE TIMES

  • A heated debate: Sixth District City Councilman Bobby Henon makes remarks at a meeting to discuss a proposed methadone clinic in Holmesburg. About 300 people attended the July 16 meeting at Abraham Lincoln High School. BRAD LARRISON / FOR THE TIMES

Op­pon­ents of a pro­posed meth­adone clin­ic at Frank­ford Av­en­ue and Dec­atur Street last week took aim at the clin­ic’s own­ers, the man leas­ing them the prop­erty and the judge who OK’d the busi­ness.

About 300 people gathered in the Ab­ra­ham Lin­coln High School aud­it­or­i­um on Ju­ly 16 to protest The Heal­ing Way’s quest to open a clin­ic in a first-floor ten­ant space at 7900-04 Frank­ford Ave.

The meet­ing fol­lowed a June 19 rul­ing by Com­mon Pleas Court Judge Idee C. Fox that sus­tained an ap­peal of a Zon­ing Board of Ad­just­ment de­cision, en­abling THW to open a clin­ic, so long as it can ob­tain per­mits from the state health de­part­ment.

At­tor­neys Dawn Tan­credi and Phil Mc­Fil­lin, who rep­res­ent neigh­bors op­posed to the clin­ic, will be ap­peal­ing to Pennsylvania Com­mon­wealth Court. The ap­peals pro­cess could cost up to $30,000, and clin­ic op­pon­ents are rais­ing money so the Mat­tioni law firm can stay on the case. They are ask­ing $10 per house­hold.

The clin­ic is op­posed by the Holmes­burg, May­fair, Holme Circle, Ta­cony and Winchester Park civic as­so­ci­ations; the May­fair Busi­ness As­so­ci­ation; the May­fair Com­munity De­vel­op­ment Cor­por­a­tion; and the May­fair and Ta­cony/Holmes­burg Town Watch groups.

Joe De­Fe­lice, an at­tor­ney and pres­id­ent of the May­fair Civic As­so­ci­ation and chair­man of the May­fair CDC, ex­plained that law­yers for both sides will file leg­al briefs and make ar­gu­ments in front of Com­mon­wealth Court. He ex­pects the case to last six months to a year.

De­Fe­lice said op­pon­ents are not against drug treat­ment.

“We’re against treat­ment at this loc­a­tion,” he said.

Neigh­bors op­posed to the clin­ic worry about loiter­ing, a de­crease in prop­erty val­ues, an in­crease in traffic, a lack of park­ing and a neg­at­ive im­pact on ex­ist­ing busi­nesses.

In ad­di­tion, they point to the clin­ic’s prox­im­ity to day care cen­ters, schools, dance stu­di­os and churches.

The fa­cil­ity would dis­pense meth­adone, which is used to wean ad­dicts off drugs. It is usu­ally ad­min­istered in li­quid form. The clin­ic would op­er­ate daily from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. and would serve about 200 pa­tients per day.  

The site is not re­lated to an­oth­er pro­posed meth­adone clin­ic in the area. In April, the ZBA ap­proved a bid by North­East Treat­ment Cen­ters to open a clin­ic at 7520 State Road. The May­fair and Holmes­burg civic as­so­ci­ations and some State Road busi­nesses op­pose the fa­cil­ity. An at­tor­ney is ap­peal­ing the zon­ing board’s de­cision to Com­mon Pleas Court.

Rich Frizell, pres­id­ent of Holmes­burg Civic As­so­ci­ation, said it’s not fair for the com­munity to be home to two meth­adone clin­ics and the pris­on com­plex on State Road. Frizell also be­lieves The Heal­ing Way own­ers, who in­clude Alan and Michelle Yan­ovsky, are too in­ex­per­i­enced in the field be­cause their primary busi­ness is not in medi­cine but as own­ers of Three Gold Broth­ers, loc­ated at 711 Sansom St. on Jew­el­ers Row.

“They trade cash for gold down on Sansom Street,” he said.

The Heal­ing Way signed a five-year lease in 2011, and the agency has spent a lot of money on rent, renov­a­tions and law­yers.

“They’re not go­ing to go away,” De­Fe­lice said.

Elec­ted of­fi­cials at the meet­ing were City Coun­cil­men Bobby Hen­on and Denny O’Bri­en, state Sen. Mike Stack and state Reps. Kev­in Boyle, Mike McGee­han, Brendan Boyle and John Taylor. An aide to U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz also was in at­tend­ance.

They vowed to stick by clin­ic op­pon­ents un­til a fi­nal res­ol­u­tion.

After Stack asked, “Will you be worn down?” the crowd roared, “No!”

Kev­in Boyle said the meth­adone clin­ic would con­trib­ute to a de­cline in the qual­ity of life the way oth­er drug re­habs have harmed neigh­bor­hoods in the Lower North­east.

“We’re go­ing to keep this clin­ic out of Holmes­burg and May­fair,” he said.

McGee­han said his fam­ily has lived in the area for 85 years, and he hopes the wide­spread op­pos­i­tion to the clin­ic will help keep it from open­ing. He also blas­ted Fox, who was elec­ted in 1995 and re­tained in 2005. She’s sched­uled for an­oth­er re­ten­tion vote in 2015.

“There bet­ter not be a yes vote for Idee Fox when she comes up for re­ten­tion,” McGee­han said.

Brendan Boyle ar­gued that meth­adone has caused deaths and that its long-term ef­fects are un­known. He called the clin­ic “a bad idea in a ter­rible loc­a­tion.”

Taylor and Kev­in Boyle have lob­bied Gov. Tom Corbett and the state health de­part­ment to re­fuse to is­sue per­mits to The Heal­ing Way un­til ap­peals have been ex­hausted.

Taylor is also call­ing for a big turnout at the next court hear­ing.

“We should all be there in Com­mon­wealth Court,” he said.

O’Bri­en said times have changed, and that sol­id com­munity op­pos­i­tion doesn’t ne­ces­sar­ily keep an un­desir­able ten­ant from open­ing. He re­called former May­or Frank L. Rizzo ap­pear­ing at meet­ings and telling folks, “You’re not go­ing to have any­thing in your neigh­bor­hood that you don’t want.”

In a ques­tion-and-an­swer ses­sion, some neigh­bors faul­ted Den­nis Kulp, own­er/broker at RE/MAX East­ern, which is loc­ated in the same build­ing as the pro­posed clin­ic. Kulp did not re­turn a phone call made by the Times on Ju­ly 17.

Kulp has claimed in the past that he did not know The Heal­ing Way would be open­ing a meth­adone clin­ic when he leased the space. 

“He’s full of s—-,” one man said.

Kulp’s home ad­dress and phone num­ber were pos­ted on an exit door for people to copy down be­fore leav­ing.

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 ap­peals in Au­gust 2011, then ruled in March 2012 in 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 writ­ten opin­ion, Fox de­term­ined that a meth­adone clin­ic is a per­mit­ted use of a C-2 prop­erty, and that the zon­ing board was wrong in its rul­ing.

The Heal­ing Way wants to move in­to a prop­erty that has been va­cant since 2008. The Last Call closed that year after a shoot­ing out­side the bar. ••

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