More testimony offered on methadone clinic plan

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. ••

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