Northeast Times

Morrell Park skin care service denied

A no-go: On Tues­day morn­ing, the city zon­ing board denied a North­east res­id­ent ap­prov­al to op­er­ate a skin care busi­ness in her Mor­rell Av­en­ue home. MARIA POUCH­NIKOVA / TIMES PHOTO

The city zon­ing board on Tues­day morn­ing wouldn’t give a North­east res­id­ent the OK to op­er­ate a busi­ness in her Mor­rell Av­en­ue home.

The ZBA’s de­cision was un­an­im­ous.

Maur­een McK­eown re­cently got over­whelm­ing sup­port from Mor­rell Park Civic As­so­ci­ation mem­bers to op­er­ate a skin care ser­vice in her home on the 3300 block of Mor­rell Av­en­ue, said City Coun­cil­man Bri­an O’Neill (R-10th dist.), but not his.

“I couldn’t be more op­posed to it,” the coun­cil­man said last week.

The prop­erty is on a res­id­en­tial block that has been res­id­en­tial for more than 50 years, and a busi­ness doesn’t be­long on a res­id­en­tial block, he said.

“That’s why we have shop­ping cen­ters,” O’Neill said.

It’s not per­son­al, the coun­cil­man said in a phone in­ter­view last week, and said he spoke to the ap­plic­ant on the phone to ex­plain his op­pos­i­tion.

The corner prop­erty at 3301 Mor­rell is a res­id­en­tially zoned single-fam­ily dwell­ing, so McK­eown needed the Zon­ing Board of Ad­just­ment to grant her a vari­ance to open a busi­ness on her corner prop­erty.

O’Neill’s of­fice routinely op­poses al­low­ing busi­nesses on res­id­en­tial blocks. In 2012, after the zon­ers gave their bless­ing to an ap­plic­a­tion that al­lowed a small man­u­fac­tur­ing busi­ness on the 9900 block of Hal­de­man Av­en­ue, the coun­cil­man urged mem­bers of the Great­er Bustleton Civic League, which had op­posed that own­er’s vari­ance, to take the zon­ers to court. The league won. Com­mon Pleas Court ordered the zon­ers to re­hear that ap­plic­a­tion.

A vari­ance is an eas­ing of the rules so an own­er can use a prop­erty in a way not per­mit­ted un­der the zon­ing code. An own­er is sup­posed to show hard­ship — that the prop­erty can­not be used any oth­er way than the way he or she is re­quest­ing.

The bur­den is on the ap­plic­ant, O’Neill said last week. The ap­plic­ant had to show the prop­erty could not be used as a single-fam­ily home.

“That’s a bur­den that can’t be met in this case,” he said. “It’s all single-fam­ily around there.”

In the Hal­de­man Av­en­ue case, the court re­manded the case back to the zon­ers be­cause hard­ship had not been proven.

Com­ment­ing on the over­whelm­ing sup­port for McK­eown dur­ing a civic as­so­ci­ation meet­ing, O’Neill said there are people who don’t want a busi­ness in their neigh­bor­hood, no mat­ter how many oth­ers come out to a meet­ing to sup­port it.

One who said he didn’t want the vari­ance OK’d was Mor­rell Park res­id­ent Elmer Money.

In a let­ter to zon­ing board mem­bers, Money as­ser­ted that deni­al of the vari­ance re­quest will not cause a loss of value to the prop­erty.

However, the Crown Av­en­ue res­id­ent wrote, if the ap­peal is gran­ted, the vari­ance stays with the prop­erty, not with the busi­ness. If the own­er moves the busi­ness, she could rent the space to an­oth­er busi­ness, or, he wrote, if she sells the prop­erty, an­oth­er busi­ness could move in. 

The con­sequences for sur­round­ing prop­erty own­ers is that park­ing spaces will be taken up by busi­ness cus­tom­ers, any busi­ness signs could prove a dis­trac­tion or be­come an eye­sore, and nearby taxes might in­crease. He also sug­ges­ted that bring­ing cus­tom­ers in­to the neigh­bor­hood might in­crease crime in the area.

At­tend­ing Tues­day’s hear­ing were a rep­res­ent­at­ive of O’Neill and four res­id­ents op­posed to the vari­ance re­quest. They car­ried a pe­ti­tion with more than 140 sig­na­tures.

Last week, O’Neill said he couldn’t ima­gine that the zon­ers would grant the vari­ance.

“And, if they did ap­prove it,” he said, “it flies in the face of the law, and it should be ap­pealed if I have to ap­peal it my­self.”

The ZBA’s de­cision, of course, means the coun­cil­man can drop any plans to ap­peal. ••

You can reach at jloftus@bsmphilly.com.

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