Methadone clinic approved

The Zon­ing Board of Ad­just­ment last week voted 4-1 to grant a use vari­ance for North­East Treat­ment Cen­ters to open a meth­adone clin­ic at 7520 State Road. 

Vot­ing in fa­vor were chair­wo­man Lynette Brown-Sow, Car­ol Tin­ari, Sam Staten and Greg Pastore.  Vot­ing in op­pos­i­tion was Marty Bed­narek, a banker from Lex­ing­ton Park.

Bed­narek said he was con­cerned that the clin­ic is too close to a school and busi­nesses, and he cited op­pos­i­tion by neigh­bors and elec­ted of­fi­cials.

“I felt it didn’t look like the prop­er loc­a­tion for a meth­adone clin­ic,” he said.

Brown-Sow’s April 23 vote was one of her fi­nal acts on the ZBA. She’s left to be­come chair­wo­man of the Phil­adelphia Hous­ing Au­thor­ity board. She de­clined to ex­plain why she ruled the way she did.

Busi­ness own­ers Larry Ger­shel and Jim and Brooke Hig­gins spent a con­sid­er­able amount of money on law­yers to fight the clin­ic. A new at­tor­ney, Frank Ben­nett, has agreed to provide pro bono rep­res­ent­a­tion in an ap­peal to Com­mon Pleas Court.

North­East Treat­ment Cen­ters has high-power rep­res­ent­a­tion by the Mont­gomery Mc­Crack­en law firm.

NET plans to provide ser­vices to res­id­ents of the 19111, 19114, 19115, 19116 and 19136 ZIP codes. The site would be open sev­en days a week, from 5:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Up to 375 people per day would re­ceive li­quid meth­adone — which is used to wean ad­dicts off drugs — from li­censed nurses.

Rich Frizell, pres­id­ent of Holmes­burg Civic As­so­ci­ation, is angry about the ZBA’s de­cision. He noted that elec­ted of­fi­cials and the Up­per Holmes­burg and May­fair civic as­so­ci­ations joined his group in op­pos­i­tion, and that about 1,000 people signed a pe­ti­tion.

Frizell, who be­lieves meth­adone clin­ics should be housed with­in ex­ist­ing med­ic­al cen­ters, said the clin­ic will add to the in­sti­tu­tion­al­iz­a­tion of State Road, point­ing to the nearby pris­on com­plex.

“Do I feel guilty for not want­ing a meth­adone clin­ic in Holmes­burg, which will ser­vice all of North­east Phil­adelphia above Cottman Av­en­ue?” he asked. “Show me the civic lead­er, the busi­ness own­er, the tax­pay­er, the may­or of a city that says, ‘Yes, put that meth­adone clin­ic here, next door to me and my chil­dren.’”

The ZBA held hear­ings on three days be­fore mak­ing its de­cision.

North­East Treat­ment Cen­ters ori­gin­ally planned to open a clin­ic at Grant Av­en­ue and Roosevelt Boulevard. But, after 1,500 people turned out at a meet­ing in Feb­ru­ary 2009 to op­pose the pro­pos­al, the city with­drew its sup­port.

Later, NET de­cided to pur­sue the State Road loc­a­tion, and the city sup­por­ted the bid.

The NET clin­ic is un­re­lated to an at­tempt by The Heal­ing Way to open a meth­adone clin­ic at Frank­ford Av­en­ue and Dec­atur Street. That case re­mains in the courts. ••

Re­port­er Tom War­ing can be reached at 215-354-3034 or twar­

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