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. ••