Greater Bustleton Civic League members last week gave out cash and honors, certified the election of board members, learned about new city sanitation regulations, heard about how boring zoning could be because of the specialized language used in zoning cases, and then voted on a couple such cases.
Early in the May 28 session at the American Heritage Federal Credit Union’s Carriage House on Red Lion Road, members honored five local pupils for their outstanding scholarship, school involvement and volunteerism. The kids got more than applause; they got cash, too.
The league awarded $100 to Jincy Mathew of C.C.A. Baldi Middle School; Bryn Howe of Greenberg Elementary; Jessica Barnes of St. Albert the Great; Roman Zharovsky of the Anne Frank School; and Joseph Tarducci of Maternity of the Blessed Virgin Mary parish school.
City Councilman Brian O’Neill (R10th dist.) talked about the zoning of medical offices and daycare businesses, two topics that would come up for votes later in league’s meeting.
Under city legislation passed late last year over Mayor Michael Nutter’s veto, all medical practices need variances if they locate in O’Neill’s 10th District or in Councilman Bobby Henon’s 6th District, O’Neill told members.
This referred to a variance request to locate a dental practice in a medical office building at 2137 Welsh Road.
“A year ago, a variance would not have been necessary,” O’Neill said last week.
In December, City Council passed an ordinance that requires zoning variances for medical offices and drugtreatment facilities, such as methadone clinics.
Henon and O’Neill had introduced the measure, known as the “Northeast Zoning Overlay,” on Oct. 24 and it unanimously passed on Nov. 21. O’Neill’s district is entirely in the Northeast. Henon’s district runs from the Port Richmond into the Northeast. The mayor vetoed the measure, but Council overrode that action, 161.
Although the ordinance makes it more difficult to open up a methadone clinic in the Northeast, that’s not all it does. The measure doesn’t specifically target drugtreatment clinics, O’Neill said last year. It requires all new medical practices in the 10th District or 6th District to seek a zoning variance, which is why 2137 Welsh Associates LLC had to seek the league’s support for a variance last week. A variance essentially is a request to do something on a property that the city’s zoning code does not permit. Variance applicants seek community support before they go before the Zoning Board of Adjustment, whose members vote to approve or nix the application.
A key part of overlay is that variance applications require community notification, O’Neill said in the fall.
“Medical practices wouldn’t be allowed into commercial property unless they talk to the community,” O’Neill said last year.
After that talking was done last week, league members voted not to oppose Welsh Associates’ variance application.
O’Neill also talked about daycare regulations. Daycare centers aren’t allowed in residential areas under the zoning code, the councilman told league members, but that’s just what Anthony and Karen Ruggiero want to operate at 811 Charette Road. Members listened to their request for support, but then voted unanimously, 320, to oppose their variance application.
In other business:
• Another zoning matter came up last week that referred to a decision members made last month. In late April, league members had voted to appeal a permit to build a home on a wooded lot at 9785 Verree Road because they believed the property’s street frontage was too small for a house. In the ensuing week, the city’s Department of Licenses and Inspections sent out a “Notice of Intent to Revoke Permit.” League President Jack O’Hara said that doesn’t settle the matter completely because the parcel’s owners may challenge L&I’s action. The owners have 30 days to appeal that notice, O’Hara said.
• American Heritage Vice President Rich Hasson said he was disappointed in a decision by the credit union’s nextdoor neighbor, B.J.’s wholesale club, to install gas pumps close to Red Lion Road. He said positioning the pumps near the road will adversely affect the credit union. Hasson added that the credit union’s leadership has persuaded B.J.’s executives to delay action on the pumps.
In their April 23 meeting, league members listened to and discussed the wholesale grocer’s expansion and modernization plans for its store at Red Lion Road and Jamison, and then voted to support a plan to install gas pumps near the front of the property.
During that session last month, league attorney Joe Guerra had told members that the company is not seeking any kind of zoning variance to put in the pumps. Rather, he explained, B.J.’s is asking for a special exception. That, he said, puts the burden on the neighborhood to show the Zoning Board of Adjustment reasons why the pumps shouldn’t be allowed.
• Members certified board officers’ election. Nominated last month were O’Hara, the incumbent president; John McKeever, the incumbent vice president; current treasurer Joan Rhodes; and incumbent recording secretary Jack Bonner. There were no contests for any of the offices, so those who were nominated retained their seats in the allvolunteer league.
• New Streets Department sanitation regulations were reviewed. The gist of those regs in regard to old mattresses and box springs is that they must be bagged when put out for collection. Mattress bags are key weapons in the fight to curb the spread of bed bugs. According to information supplied by the Streets Department, bed bug infestations have been on the rise nationwide for the past 19 years. The small bugs are particular problems in urban areas. Bagging old mattresses helps manage the spread of the insects and also protects sanitation workers from getting them on their clothing and taking them to their own homes. Mattress bags’ costs can range from just a few dollars up to $20, depending on where they’re purchased.
• Authors Carol Heilberger and Bob Toryak talked about their new zoning code dictionary. Heilberger, a Center City resident, and Toryak, a developer, said the goal of Unlocking the Zoning Code is to explain the sometimes confusing terminology used in the zoning process, which she said “can be dry and boring and awful.” Some of the terms used at zoning hearings have meanings in common speech, the dictionary and the zoning code that have nothing to do with each other, she said. “Cellar” and “basement” might seem to be synonyms, Heilberger said, but, in zoning cases, they differ in that cellars are lower than basements. Even the notion of “lower” in regard to cellars and basements has to be explained, she said.
The league’s next meeting will be at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, June 25, at the American Heritage Federal Credit Union, Red Lion Road and Jamison. ••