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 firstname.lastname@example.org