State representative race gains another candidate

Torresdale native and Holmesburg business owner Paul DeFinis declared his candidacy for Pennsylvania’s 173rd legislative district seat.

The race to suc­ceed state Rep. Mike McGee­han got a bit more crowded last Thursday as Holmes­burg busi­ness own­er Paul DeFinis de­clared his can­did­acy for Pennsylvania’s 173rd le­gis­lat­ive dis­trict seat.

DeFinis, a 49-year-old Demo­crat, made his an­nounce­ment dur­ing the monthly meet­ing of the Up­per Holmes­burg Civic As­so­ci­ation, a group that he helped found a dec­ade ago. The Tor­res­dale nat­ive and 1982 Arch­bish­op Ry­an gradu­ate owns and op­er­ates DeFinis State Auto Body at 8305 Tor­res­dale Ave. He joins tav­ern own­er and Tor­res­dale res­id­ent Mike Driscoll in the Demo­crat­ic field for the May 20 primary.

McGee­han was first elec­ted in 1990 and will not seek a 13th term in of­fice. On the Re­pub­lic­an side, Mike Tom­lin­son is the lone de­clared can­did­ate. Can­did­ates must sub­mit nom­in­a­tion pe­ti­tions by March 11.

“I care about this com­munity and like you I come to these meet­ings every month to make the com­munity bet­ter,” DeFinis told UHCA mem­bers. “I feel I could be a great voice for the civic (as­so­ci­ations) and the com­munity.”

In ad­di­tion to his auto body busi­ness, DeFinis is a cer­ti­fied pub­lic ad­juster. He holds a bach­el­or’s de­gree in busi­ness from Penn State.

DeFinis, the fourth of six sib­lings, has nev­er be­fore run for pub­lic of­fice, but he worked in the of­fice of former state Sen. Jim Lloyd as a high school seni­or. He has also done neigh­bor­hood-level vo­lun­teer work on a few polit­ic­al cam­paigns.

Sev­er­al years ago, he was among a group of auto­mot­ive pro­fes­sion­als as­sembled by the Pennsylvania Gas­ol­ine Re­tail­ers As­so­ci­ation that took part in pub­lic hear­ings and helped draft le­gis­la­tion to amend the state’s Mo­tor Vehicle Phys­ic­al Dam­age Ap­praisers Code. DeFinis de­scribed it as a con­sumer ad­vocacy ef­fort that ul­ti­mately re­stric­ted the power of in­sur­ance car­ri­ers to dic­tate where and how ac­ci­dent vic­tims get their vehicles re­paired. The group partnered with House In­sur­ance Com­mit­tee Chair­man Nich­olas Mi­cozzie (R-Delaware County) on the pack­age.

With the Up­per Holmes­burg civic group, DeFinis has served as zon­ing chair­man. In that role, he twice at­ten­ded the City Plan­ning Com­mis­sion’s Cit­izens Plan­ning In­sti­tute and served as his or­gan­iz­a­tion’s point per­son on a neigh­bor­hood plan­ning ini­ti­at­ive. 

The out­come was the 26-page Up­per Holmes­burg Neigh­bor­hood Goals and Strategies Re­port, which will be in­cor­por­ated in­to the city’s Phil­adelphi­a2035 ini­ti­at­ive.

The re­port, is­sued in 2011, has served as a guide for the re­devel­op­ment of the former Lid­don­field Homes pub­lic hous­ing site in­to a fu­ture Holy Fam­ily Uni­versity cam­pus. The Phil­adelphia Hous­ing Au­thor­ity awar­ded de­vel­op­ment rights through a re­quest for pro­pos­als pro­cess. Con­struc­tion is pending a form­al sale of the prop­erty.

“The RFP was based on the (neigh­bor­hood) plan,” DeFinis said in an in­ter­view with the North­east Times.

In 2006, DeFinis also helped the UHCA block an ef­fort by a Geor­gia-based com­pany to es­tab­lish a 20-acre auto junk­yard near He­ger­man and Pennypack streets. He views pub­lic of­fice as a next lo­gic­al step.

“This is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time and the op­por­tun­ity came up,” he said. “It’s prob­ably a one-time deal.”

In oth­er neigh­bor­hood busi­ness, the civic as­so­ci­ation gave its ap­prov­al to a pro­posed nail salon, but re­jec­ted a prop­erty own­er’s ef­fort to sub­divide a single-fam­ily home.

The nail salon would re­place a former linger­ie shop at 8921 Frank­ford Ave., next door to an es­tab­lished barber shop. Al­though the store­front has long op­er­ated as a busi­ness, it is zoned res­id­en­tial, so the would-be pro­pri­et­or needs a vari­ance to open the salon.

The civic group voted 14-9 to ap­prove the re­quest, with op­pon­ents ex­press­ing a con­cern that nail salons are some­times as­so­ci­ated with neigh­bor­hoods in de­cline.

Mean­while, the UHCA op­ted not to vote on a zon­ing is­sue at 8517 Frank­ford Ave. The own­er of the prop­erty seeks to leg­al­ize what she de­scribed as a two-story du­plex with sep­ar­ate apart­ments on each floor. She plans on rent­ing the spaces to re­l­at­ives.

However, the site is not zoned as a multi-fam­ily dwell­ing. The city’s De­part­ment of Li­censes and In­spec­tion has it lis­ted as a com­mer­cial prop­erty (the res­id­ence in fact is at­tached to a tax of­fice), while the Of­fice of Prop­erty As­sess­ment con­siders it a single-fam­ily dwell­ing, ac­cord­ing to the own­er.

UHCA Pres­id­ent Stan Cy­w­in­ski said that the civic group has a stand­ing policy against rent­al con­ver­sions, a policy mem­bers es­tab­lished through a pri­or vote. 

He re­com­men­ded that the own­er con­tact a zon­ing at­tor­ney to help sort out the ap­par­ent con­tra­dic­tion in the city’s re­cords for the prop­erty. ••

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