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. ••