Methadone clinic foes face court deadline

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. ••

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