After a long-delayed hearing on whether a Bustleton businessman may legally make dental retainers in a residentially zoned Haldeman Avenue property, members of the Zoning Board of Adjustment decided not to decide.
At least, the zoners were not going to decide immediately after a July 23 hearing on 9997 Haldeman Ave., said the board’s chairwoman, Julia Chapman.
The Greater Bustleton Civic League has spent its own funds to contest a late 2012 zoning board decision that granted owner Flore Andresi a three-year zoning variance to continue making retainers in the 63-year-old one-floor house. The variance, or legal permission to bend the zoning code, allowed the residentially zoned property to be used as a business.
The league was represented last week by attorney Jared Klein. Andresi was represented by attorney Shawn Ward. Councilman Brian O’Neill (R-10th dist.), who also sent a lawyer to the hearing, in 2012 had urged the league to fight to preserve the block’s residential character and ask Common Pleas Court to reverse the zoners’ decision. The league did, and in July 2013, the court sent the case back to the zoners.
“Hardship is the only issue before the zoning board,” the councilman said the day before the hearing.
In the peculiar jargon of zoning, “hardship” means that a property is only fit to be used in the way a variance applicant wants to use it, no matter how it is zoned. In this case, that would mean the single-family home could be used only for Andresi’s small business of handcrafting dental retainers. The court said hardship was not proved in a hearing before the zoners in November 2012. The hearing to determine hardship was postponed and postponed again over the past year.
Ward argued that the block had a lot of commercial elements and that Andresi’s property was only fit for his business, not as a home. He presented an expert witness, suburban real estate agent Karen Doorley, who said the property wasn’t suitable as a house. Ward pointed out Andresi’s house is next to a Wendy’s restaurant and across the street from a bank.
Klein didn’t dispute the location of nearby businesses, but said the remainder of the block is made up of residences. He said the league was worried that allowing Andresi to continue his business threatened the block’s residential character, a point made also by league president Jack O’Hara.
Klein also said the property has all the makings of a residential use.
“Someone can live in this house,” he said. “There is no hardship.”
Board member Samuel Staten Jr. suggested the zoners had backed Andresi in 2012 because he was a small businessman who was living in the building and, since there had been no complaints about the business, the board was inclined to give him three years to keep operating and find another location.
Ward maintained that his client would not seek another variance when that three years is up about 18 months from now.
Member Greg Pastore asked Andresi if he still lived in the house. Andresi said that he and his wife, who were separated, are back together and he no longer lives on the property. He said he just works there. That seemed to surprise some board members.
Staten said he said yes to the applicant in 2012 because he believed he was living on the property, and Pastore said zoners believed Andresi’s business was an accessory use to his residence.
Zoners quietly conferred before saying they would look over all the information and make a decision later. As of presstime yesterday, no decision had been made. ••