Greater Bustleton Civic League members got updates on neighborhood zoning issues and recreation center renovations, heard about utility worker impostors trying to get into homes and learned a once legal left turn off of Grant Avenue is now illegal.
Turning into the Wawa off of Grant’s westbound lanes right before Krewstown Road will get drivers ticketed, the league’s president, Jack O’Hara, said. There are signs warning motorists that a left before Krewstown is illegal, and police are writing plenty of tickets to those who disregard those signs.
O’Hara told members that men impersonating Philadelphia Gas Works employees are trying to get into Bustleton homes. He said an elderly woman told him two guys in PGW uniforms showed her ID badges, but when they got into her home, they terrorized her and ransacked the place.
A resident who lives off of Morefield and Verree told members a man who said he was a PGW employee came up to her as she was outside her home watering her plants. She said she had seen the man walking up and down her street before he had approached her.
She said the man at first asked to see her husband and then told her there was a gas leak nearby that was affecting the water supply. He showed her an ID, she said, but added, “I wasn’t buying it.”
But that didn’t stop the man from persisting, giving the woman reason after phony reason she should let him inside. “‘Your water is poison,’” she said the man told her and he insisted he wanted to get in her house. She continued to refuse, and eventually the man went away.
The story should be a familiar one to Northeast Times readers. The newspaper frequently has published reports of men impersonating utility workers who try to convince people, usually elderly people, that they must be allowed in their homes to check pipes for gas or water leaks. Their intent always is to check out what they can swipe, not fix.
O’Hara told members they are not under any obligation to allow anyone into their homes — even if they really are utility workers. One member advised others that any PGW employee investigating a gas leak routinely would be accompanied by firefighters.
Capt. Frank Bachmayer, the 7th Police District’s new commander, also said no one is required to let anyone in their homes. He told members not to investigate these situations on their own.
“Just dial 911,” he said. “People think there is no reason to call 911 … but, if you think something is wrong, give us a call.”
The captain also said many residents are getting surveillance cameras for their homes’ security, and those systems are helpful to police.
Speaking of area crimes, Bachmayer said neighborhood violence that has made news reports has not been random, but instead involved “targeted individuals.”
For example, the men who recently were robbed outside a Geiger Road gun range were targets, he said. One of those men was shot. Two suspects have been charged in that crime.
Bachmayer also advised anyone who is burglarized not to clean up before police arrive to investigate.
One way police catch burglars is luck, he said, and the other way is through fingerprints. Burglars don’t stop after hitting one house, the captain said. A burglar will hit several homes in a row and might leave behind his prints. Cleaning up before police officers arrive can hamper their ability to lift a burglar’s prints.
“Don’t clean up,” the captain said.
Joe Guerra, the league’s attorney, said he will represent the neighborhood free of charge in its fight to keep a day care center out of 811 Charette. Group Daycare Center has resubmitted its application to the Zoning Board of Adjustment, asking for a special exception to allow operations in the residential area. League members had opposed the initial application for a variance.
By asking for an exception instead of a zoning variance, the applicant shifts the burden to opponents, who must now show the use would be a detriment to the neighborhood, Guerra said.
“This is not the particular use we want,” the attorney said. “We will put up a fight.”
He said neighborhood traffic already is congested and that there is a SEPTA bus line that runs by the property. Guerra added that there is a registered sex offender in the neighborhood.
The league had retained another attorney to fight another zoning battle.
The owner of 9997 Haldeman Ave., who is operating a dental implant manufacturing business in a residentially zoned property, will have a zoning board hearing at 2 p.m. on July 23, members were told.
“We want a large turnout at that meeting,” Guerra said.
There’s some history to the league’s opposition.
In late 2012, members overwhelmingly refused to support a variance that would permit the business to operate legally in the house, but the zoning board gave the owner a three-year temporary variance to continue. City Councilman Brian O’Neill (R-10th dist.) at the time urged the league to fight the zoners’ decision. The organization did, taking the case to Common Pleas Court, where a judge ruled that the applicant did not prove hardship — that the only use for the house was for his business. The zoning board now has the case again and must now decide if that hardship exists. The hearing has been continued more than once. Meanwhile, the applicant may legally operate his business on the property.
It seems that sometimes a zoning win doesn’t feel like a victory.
Jack Bonner, the league’s recording secretary, said the zoners last year had not only refused to legalize a structure on a neighborhood property, but had ordered it torn down. It’s still standing, he said.
“The weak link is enforcement,” O’Hara said.
O’Neill said residents have to look out for their neighborhoods.
“Eyes and ears are not just about crime,” he said, “It’s about quality-of-life issues. It all adds up, and, believe me, it can really change a neighborhood.”
The councilman said renov-a-tions of the play area at Lack-man Play-ground in Bustleton had been sched-uled to be com-pleted by early June, but the harsh winter put the job behind schedule. He said construction had to stop so the playground could be used for day camps during the summer school vacation.
Greater Bustleton Civic League members will not meet during July and August. The league’s next session will be at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 17, in the American Heritage Federal Credit Union’s Carriage House, Red Lion Road and Jamison. League meetings generally are conducted on a month’s fourth Wednesday, but the September session was scheduled on the third Wednesday because Rosh Hashanah falls on Sept. 24. ••