Zoning board prolongs Bustleton decision

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. ••

You can reach at jloftus@bsmphilly.com.

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