Northeast Times

Mayfair, Holmesburg civics raise funds to appeal methadone clinic

Op­pon­ents of a planned meth­adone clin­ic at Frank­ford Av­en­ue and Dec­atur Street are plan­ning a last-ditch ef­fort to pre­vent the busi­ness from open­ing.

The Heal­ing Way, which wants to open the clin­ic, last week won a big court vic­tory when a three-judge Com­mon­wealth Court pan­el re­jec­ted an ap­peal by neigh­bors op­posed to the pro­posed op­er­a­tion. The state court af­firmed an earli­er rul­ing by Phil­adelphia Com­mon Pleas Court, which OK’d the clin­ic.

Now, clin­ic foes are try­ing to raise money so an at­tor­ney from Ober­may­er, Reb­mann, Max­well and Hip­pel can ap­peal to Pennsylvania Su­preme Court.

City Coun­cil­man Bobby Hen­on sup­ports the ap­peal.

I am dis­heartened but un­deterred by the Com­mon­wealth Court’s opin­ion and stand firmly be­hind the com­munity, its civic and busi­ness lead­ers and neigh­bors in op­pos­i­tion to the Heal­ing Way,” he said. “In the com­ing days and weeks, we will re­group and de­cide on a path for­ward. That path must in­clude cul­tiv­at­ing vi­brant com­mer­cial cor­ridors with busi­ness that is wel­comed by the com­munity rather than forced on it.”

The May­fair and Holmes­burg civic as­so­ci­ations are lead­ing the ef­fort to raise money for the ap­peal.

The Heal­ing Way has already spent a lot of money on leg­al rep­res­ent­a­tion and the renov­a­tions and lease at the Frank­ford Av­en­ue prop­erty, and will be ready for what should be one fi­nal court battle. The firm must also ob­tain per­mits from the state health de­part­ment be­fore open­ing. Com­mon­wealth Court Judges Bon­nie Brigance Lead­bet­ter, Robert Simpson and Kev­in Brob­son were un­an­im­ous in their rul­ing in fa­vor of the fa­cil­ity, which would dis­pense meth­adone, a drug that is used to help ad­dicts kick the habit. It is usu­ally ad­min­istered in li­quid form. The clin­ic would op­er­ate daily from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. and would serve about 200 pa­tients per day.

Neigh­bors op­posed to the clin­ic worry about loiter­ing, a de­crease in prop­erty val­ues, an in­crease in traffic, a lack of park­ing and a neg­at­ive im­pact on ex­ist­ing busi­nesses. In ad­di­tion, they point to the clin­ic’s prox­im­ity to day care cen­ters, schools, dance stu­di­os and churches.

The fight over the clin­ic dates to Janu­ary 2011, when the city De­part­ment of Li­censes and In­spec­tions is­sued a use per­mit for 7900-04 Frank­ford Ave., and THW ob­tained build­ing per­mits for in­teri­or al­ter­a­tions of the 4,830-square-foot prop­erty.

Neigh­bors ap­pealed L&I’s is­su­ance of the per­mit.

The Zon­ing Board of Ad­just­ment heard the ap­peals in Au­gust 2011, then ruled in March 2012 in a 4-1 vote that a meth­adone clin­ic - un­like a med­ic­al of­fice, hos­pit­al or med­ic­al cen­ter - is not a per­mit­ted use of a prop­erty that is zoned C-2.

The Heal­ing Way ap­pealed that rul­ing to Com­mon Pleas Court, and Judge Idee Fox heard ar­gu­ments in Decem­ber 2012. A city law­yer sided with THW at the hear­ing. In her writ­ten opin­ion, Fox de­term­ined that a meth­adone clin­ic is a per­mit­ted use of a C-2 prop­erty, and that the zon­ing board was wrong in its rul­ing.

After that rul­ing, U.S. Reps. Allyson Schwartz and Bob Brady wrote a let­ter to a De­part­ment of Justice Drug En­force­ment Ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cial, ur­ging the agency to halt de­vel­op­ment of the clin­ic.

The May­fair Busi­ness As­so­ci­ation, May­fair Com­munity De­vel­op­ment Cor­por­a­tion, vari­ous civic as­so­ci­ations and a num­ber of elec­ted of­fi­cials op­pose the clin­ic.

The courts, though, look like they will have the fi­nal say. The Heal­ing Way wants to move in­to a prop­erty that has been va­cant since 2008. The Last Call closed that year after a shoot­ing out­side the bar. ••

You can reach at twaring@bsmphilly.com.

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