Mayfair Civic approves daycare center

The former North­east Com­munity Cen­ter is already home to a re­li­gious group and could get a child­care fa­cil­ity, too. 

The May­fair Civic As­so­ci­ation on Monday voted not to fight a pro­posed child day­care cen­ter on Holme Av­en­ue.

And, yes, a por­tion of Holme Av­en­ue does in­deed fall with­in the May­fair group’s ter­rit­ori­al bound­ar­ies.

With sev­er­al im­me­di­ate neigh­bors strongly op­posed to the day­care pro­pos­al, it was destined to be a hotly de­bated top­ic at the civic group’s bi-monthly meet­ing. But the dia­logue took an un­usu­al turn when zon­ing chair­man Joe De­Fe­lice de­livered an ex­plan­a­tion as to why May­fair res­id­ents had any in­terest in the is­sue in the first place.

The site pro­posed for the new day care is the former North­east Com­munity Cen­ter at 2840 Holme Ave. That’s ba­sic­ally across the street from Naz­areth Hos­pit­al and miles from the area con­sidered by most folks as May­fair.

The strongest op­pon­ents to the day­care mostly reside in the Rhawn Gar­dens sub­di­vi­sion im­me­di­ately be­hind the old com­munity cen­ter. As De­Fe­lice ex­plained it, May­fair ba­sic­ally ad­op­ted the sub­di­vi­sion after oth­er civic as­so­ci­ations turned those res­id­ents away.

“Nobody else wanted it,” De­Fe­lice said.

Years ago, Rhawn Gar­dens res­id­ents en­countered an­oth­er zon­ing-re­lated con­tro­versy and ap­proached two nearby civic groups for help. But the Winchester Park and Holme Circle civics chose not to ex­tend their of­fi­cial bound­ar­ies to in­clude the sub­di­vi­sion. May­fair took up the cause.

“A zon­ing is­sue arose and we handled it,” De­Fe­lice said.

Now, the sec­tion is tech­nic­ally part of May­fair Civic, even if it’s clearly not part of the May­fair neigh­bor­hood.

For much of the meet­ing, the new own­er of the former com­munity cen­ter found him­self de­fend­ing com­plaints from im­me­di­ate neigh­bors about the pro­posed day­care use. After a pri­or own­er de­faul­ted on a loan, a bank fore­closed on the prop­erty. A Hunt­ing­don Val­ley com­pany headed by real es­tate de­veloper Jeff Fuchs bought the site for $800,000 in Septem­ber, ac­cord­ing to city re­cords.

Fuchs said he is leas­ing one por­tion of the 18,000-square-foot build­ing to a re­li­gious group while con­duct­ing renov­a­tions to the build­ing and 3/4-acre prop­erty.

The pro­posed day­care cen­ter is not af­fil­i­ated with the re­li­gious group and would serve up to 50 chil­dren ages 6 months to 5 years. The cen­ter would op­er­ate un­der the Chil­dren of Amer­ica or­gan­iz­a­tion and be fully ac­cred­ited. It could be open Monday to Fri­day from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m., de­pend­ing on the sched­ules of cli­ents.

Fuchs said that the former com­munity cen­ter used to op­er­ate a day­care cen­ter there, so, “It was de­signed for that pur­pose.” There’s a small out­door play area be­hind the build­ing along Solly Av­en­ue. The own­er needs a zon­ing vari­ance to lease the build­ing to two sep­ar­ate or­gan­iz­a­tions sim­ul­tan­eously.

One neigh­bor com­plained that sev­er­al older res­id­ents live very close to the rear of the build­ing and would be neg­at­ively im­pacted by the noise of the chil­dren.

“They don’t want to hear kids all day,” the wo­man said.

Fuchs ac­know­ledged that the chil­dren would spend time out­side.

“Chil­dren are chil­dren. This is where the play­ground is. They’re go­ing to have re­cess,” the own­er said.

The same neigh­bor also com­plained about the poor con­di­tion of the build­ing, par­tic­u­larly peel­ing paint, and a crum­bling side­walk. Fuchs re­spon­ded that the build­ing had been va­cant and van­dal­ized be­fore he bought it, so he was try­ing to make re­pairs. He’s also been try­ing to get po­lice to crack down on teen­agers who of­ten drink be­hind the build­ing where it abuts Pennypack Park.

Elsie Stevens, pres­id­ent of the Holme Circle Civic As­so­ci­ation, re­por­ted that nobody has re­moved the snow from the pub­lic side­walk out­side the prop­erty after the last two winter storms. While ac­know­ledging that she ini­tially en­dorsed a day­care cen­ter there, that was be­fore Fuchs brought the re­li­gious group to the site. Now, Stevens is con­cerned about over­crowding.

“A num­ber of res­id­ents are wor­ried about over-util­iz­a­tion, that it’s too crowded now,” Stevens said. “What hap­pens with a day­care and a church?”

Nance Kerns, vice pres­id­ent of the Friends of Pennypack Park, ac­cused Fuchs of cut­ting down trees in the park ad­ja­cent to his park­ing lot. Fuchs said the trees were on his prop­erty and that the limbs were over­hanging the lot by “thirty or forty feet.” Kerns said he should’ve trimmed the limbs, but not cut down the trees. She claimed that the city’s De­part­ment of Parks and Re­cre­ation is in­vest­ig­at­ing the tree re­mov­al.

De­Fe­lice pro­posed sev­er­al con­di­tions or “pro­vis­os” for mem­bers of the civic as­so­ci­ation to con­sider be­fore vot­ing on the pro­pos­al. Among 28 who cast votes, 20 agreed not to op­pose the plan as long as Fuchs erects a pri­vacy fence be­hind the play area, paints the build­ing, main­tains the prop­erty, re­moves snow on time and joins the May­fair Busi­ness As­so­ci­ation. The civic group also de­mands that the day­care re­mains ac­cred­ited.

Three mem­bers voted to op­pose the plan, while five voted not to op­pose it re­gard­less of the at­tached pro­vis­os. ••

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