Northeast Times

Morrell Park resident granted zoning permit

A Mor­rell Av­en­ue res­id­ent who wants to op­er­ate a skin-care busi­ness in her home won’t be go­ing be­fore the Zon­ing Board of Ad­just­ment.

She doesn’t have to, ac­cord­ing to her law­yer. Maur­een McK­eown was gran­ted a per­mit for a home oc­cu­pa­tion on April 10, at­tor­ney Joseph Beller said in an April 14 phone in­ter­view. The per­mit is pos­ted in front of McK­eown’s home on the 3300 block of Mor­rell Ave.

But City Coun­cil­man Bri­an O’Neill (R-10th dist.) on Monday said he will not stop his op­pos­i­tion to McK­eown’s home busi­ness. He said he not only will ap­peal McK­eown’s per­mit to the zon­ing board, but will ask for an ex­ec­ut­ive level re­view of how it was gran­ted.

“I want to make sure I’m fight­ing as hard as I can on be­half of the neigh­bor­hood,” he said.

McK­eown first came be­fore the zon­ers on Jan. 21 to ask for a vari­ance so she could leg­ally op­er­ate her busi­ness in her home. A vari­ance, simply put, is an of­fi­cial OK to bend the zon­ing code for a spe­cif­ic pur­pose. Four res­id­ents showed up to op­pose McK­eown, and they brought a pe­ti­tion with more than 140 sig­na­tures. O’Neill sent an aide and an at­tor­ney to ar­gue against the vari­ance. The zon­ers on that date un­an­im­ously and quickly denied McK­eown’s ap­plic­a­tion for a zon­ing vari­ance to op­er­ate a skin-care busi­ness in her house.

“It’s ba­sic­ally fa­cials,” said Beller, who began rep­res­ent­ing McK­eown after she was shot down by the zon­ing board.

Beller asked the zon­ers to re­con­sider his cli­ent’s case. They agreed. When the mat­ter came be­fore the zon­ers again on April 2, Beller said he had not had the op­por­tun­ity to prop­erly as­sess his cli­ent’s rights and asked for a con­tinu­ance. The zon­ers gran­ted the re­quest, but didn’t set a new date. One won’t be needed, ac­cord­ing to the at­tor­ney.

“There will not be an­oth­er hear­ing,” Beller said Monday.

He said there must have been some mis­un­der­stand­ing of what his cli­ent wanted to do when the De­part­ment of Li­censes and In­spec­tions ini­tially re­fused her a per­mit. An L&I re­fus­al spurred McK­eown’s re­quest for a vari­ance. One of the reas­ons Beller said he took the case is that he didn’t be­lieve his cli­ent was com­pletely un­der­stood.

Beller said there is a long-stand­ing right to op­er­ate a home busi­ness in Phil­adelphia. McK­eown’s busi­ness fits the defin­i­tion of a home oc­cu­pa­tion, he said.

O’Neill’s in­ter­pret­a­tion, however, is that the city’s code does not al­low McK­eown’s busi­ness. He called giv­ing McK­eown a per­mit “an L&I er­ror.”

The city’s new zon­ing code al­lows for per­son­al ser­vices in a home for in­struc­tion and main­ten­ance, the coun­cil­man said. He in­sisted it does not al­low for op­er­a­tion of a per­son­al ser­vices busi­ness.

Neigh­bor Ray Miller said he was shocked when he heard about the per­mit. An­oth­er, who asked not to be named, said she ex­pects neigh­bors will chal­lenge the per­mit.

Beller said he be­lieves any ob­jec­tions to the per­mit will be un­suc­cess­ful.

“I think you have to read the code,” Beller said. “This is prop­erly is­sued and will with­stand a chal­lenge.”

If the per­mit isn’t re­voked, O’Neill said, then any­body else will be able to go to L&I for a per­mit to op­er­ate a busi­ness in a res­id­en­tial neigh­bor­hood. ••

You can reach at jloftus@bsmphilly.com.

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