Common Pleas Court Judge Ellen Green-Ceisler is expected to rule soon in an appeal of a Zoning Board of Adjustment decision permitting a methadone clinic along State Road in Holmesburg.
Frank Bennett is the pro bono lawyer representing the Holmesburg Civic Association and others in opposition to a clinic planned for 7520 and 7550 State Road. Steve Pollock, of the Montgomery McCracken law firm, represents NorthEast Treatment Centers, which hopes to open a clinic.
Green-Ceisler heard oral arguments from Bennett and Pollock on Jan. 15 in a City Hall courtroom. Bennett had until last Friday to present supplemental testimony. The judge seemed to indicate that she’d be ready to rule soon after receiving Bennett’s final testimony.
Last April, the Zoning Board of Adjustment voted 4-1 to grant a use variance to NET to open a clinic to serve residents of the 19111, 19114, 19115, 19116 and 19136 ZIP codes.
“The zoning board got this one right,” Pollock told the judge.
The site would be open seven days a week, from 5:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Up to 375 people per day would receive liquid methadone, which is used to wean addicts off drugs.
The Upper Holmesburg and Mayfair civic associations, along with some elected officials and State Road businesses, oppose the clinic.
At the hearing, there were representatives of state Sen. Mike Stack and City Councilmen Bobby Henon and David Oh. Holmesburg Civic Association president Rich Frizell and his predecessor, Fred Moore, also were in attendance.
NET’s entourage was led by president/CEO Regan Kelly and her predecessor, Terence McSherry.
Bennett argued that the site is in an industrial area. Pollock countered that a variance should be issued, noting that the property owner hired three brokers to market the site to industrial companies with no success. He added that Sweet Lucy’s Smokehouse, a leading opponent of the clinic, received a variance to open.
Pollock told the court that there is a “tremendous buffer zone” between the site and the closest houses. He said studies show that there is more crime near convenience stores than methadone clinics. Bennett faulted the ZBA for ignoring the wishes of residents, civic associations and elected officials. He said the board made an “error.”
“The entire Northeast has spoken on this issue,” he said.
Pollock said the law is on NET’s side.
“Zoning’s not a popularity contest,” he said.
NET originally planned to open a clinic at Grant Avenue and Roosevelt Boulevard. But, after 1,500 people turned out at a meeting in February 2009 to oppose the proposal, the city withdrew its support.
The city supports NET’s current bid.
The NET clinic is unrelated to an attempt by The Healing Way to open a methadone clinic at Frankford Avenue and Decatur Street. Last June, Common Pleas Court Judge Idee C. Fox sustained an appeal of a ZBA decision, allowing the clinic to open.
Neighbors opposed to the clinic are appealing that ruling. The city also supports the opening of that clinic. ••