Businessman Gerald Guzinski told the Zoning Board of Adjustment that he has had a hard time finding a tenant for his properties along the 7500 block of State Road in Holmesburg.
A trucking company, he said, picked up and left “lock, stock and barrel” in the middle of a lease. His attorney, Steve Pollock, likened it to the Baltimore Colts’ middle-of-the-night move to Indianapolis in 1984.
Guzinski said a current tenant, Absolute Pallet, is looking to expand and plans to vacate the site by the end of March. Among the prospective tenants that didn’t pan out for one reason or another were a charter school and a male go-go-bar.
Now, he’s got a prospective tenant, NorthEast Treatment Centers, but the agency needs a variance from the zoning board before it can open a methadone clinic there. The plan has stirred considerable opposition from residents and local businesses.
A hearing on the variance opened on Jan. 23 and was continued until March 6. After two hours of testimony last week, the hearing was continued to a date to be determined.
At full capacity, NET would be able to treat 375 clients, administering methadone to wean addicts off drugs. It would be dispensed in daily doses by licensed nurses, although a select number of patients might receive injections of Vivitrol, which lasts for 30 days and blocks an opiate’s euphoric effects.
“The demand isn’t going away, it’s going up,” said John Carroll, director of the NET Steps program.
As part of its case, NET is trying to show a hardship for the property, arguing that Guzinski is unable to find a suitable tenant for various reasons, including environmental concerns.
Attorney Michael Yanoff, who represents residents and business owners opposed to the clinic, doesn’t buy the argument. He noted that numerous tenants have looked at the site.
“The property can be used and is being used,” he said after the hearing.
NET is eyeing the site after facing strong community opposition in Bustleton in 2009 after it tried to open a clinic at Grant Avenue and Roosevelt Boulevard.
The city has given NET a contract to dispense methadone to addicts living in the 19111, 19114, 19115, 19116 and 19136 ZIP codes, an area generally north of Cottman Avenue.
Among those at last week’s hearing who oppose the new site were Holmesburg Civic Association president Rich Frizell, Mayfair Civic Association president Joe DeFelice and Lisa Deeley, an aide to City Councilman Bobby Henon.
In addition, New Foundations Charter School CEO Paul Stadelberger was prepared to testify for the opposition, but NET is still putting on its case.
The State Road site is about 54,000 square feet. NET would consolidate two lots — one at 7520 State Road, the other at 7550 — into one, partially by demolishing a building.
Frizell opposes the clinic, in part, because the area already is home to the city’s prison complex. NET stressed that it provides in-prison services, but wouldn’t at its clinic.
“This is a medical facility. It has nothing to do with corrections,” said Pollock, the NET lawyer.
Carroll said that at NET’s site at 2205 Bridge St. in Bridesburg, there are no problems with traffic, loitering, trash or loud talking.
Guzinski, the property owner, testified that a seven-day-a-week operation like NET would decrease the potential for vandalism at the site.
Frizell said a methadone clinic does not fit with existing neighbors such as Fluke’s Restaurant & Pub and Sweet Lucy’s Smokehouse. Nor, he said, would it fit in with any future development of the Delaware River waterfront. ••