Northeast Times

Morrell Park resident granted new zoning hearing

A Mor­rell Park res­id­ent will get an­oth­er shot at per­suad­ing the city’s Zon­ing Board of Ad­just­ment to al­low her to op­er­ate a skin-care busi­ness in her single-fam­ily home.

On Jan. 21, the zon­ers un­an­im­ously and speedily re­jec­ted Mauren McK­eown’s re­quest for a vari­ance to use part of her corner prop­erty on the 3300 of Mor­rell Av­en­ue for her busi­ness and the re­mainder as her dwell­ing.

Since that hear­ing, McK­eown has re­tained at­tor­ney Joseph Beller, and he ar­gued for his cli­ent’s ap­plic­a­tion to be re­con­sidered. The zon­ers agreed to that in Feb­ru­ary. The new hear­ing will be at 2 p.m. on April 2, Beller said on March 6. The zon­ing board meets on the 18th floor of 1515 Arch St.

McK­eown pre­vi­ously got sup­port for her vari­ance from the Mor­rell Park Civic As­so­ci­ation, but four res­id­ents who op­posed it showed up at the Jan. 21 zon­ing board ses­sion with a pe­ti­tion signed by more than 140 oth­ers who didn’t like it either. City Coun­cil­man Bri­an O’Neill (R-10th) sent a let­ter of op­pos­i­tion, an aide and an at­tor­ney to the Janu­ary hear­ing to ar­gue against the ap­plic­a­tion.

“I couldn’t be more op­posed to it,” O’Neill said the week be­fore the hear­ing. At the time, the coun­cil­man said he couldn’t ima­gine that the zon­ers would ap­prove McK­eown’s re­quest. He ad­ded that any de­cision for the ap­plic­ant should be ap­pealed. 

“It flies in the face of the law,” O’Neill said.

Beller last week said he was present on an­oth­er mat­ter on Jan. 21 when the zon­ers denied McK­eown’s vari­ance ap­plic­a­tion.

“She was stunned,” he said.

Be­cause she was not rep­res­en­ted by an at­tor­ney at that time, Beller said, his new cli­ent “told her story but didn’t ad­dress the leg­al is­sues” that ap­ply to her situ­ation. Be­cause of that, he said, he thought it was reas­on­able to ask for a re­con­sid­er­a­tion.

“It’s not a simple mat­ter,” Beller said.

The pur­pose of the zon­ing board is to al­low, where ap­pro­pri­ate, prop­erty uses oth­er than those in strict com­pli­ance with the city’s code, Beller said. Since McK­eown’s home is zoned for res­id­en­tial use only, she needs the zon­ers’ OK to op­er­ate her busi­ness there.

He said his cli­ent doesn’t want to turn the house com­pletely in­to a com­mer­cial use. McK­eown will con­tin­ue to live on the prop­erty, and she will use it primar­ily as her res­id­ence, Beller said.

He said his cli­ent is ask­ing only for per­mis­sion for her to give fa­cials there.

“Nobody is chan­ging the zon­ing,” Beller said. “It will still be zoned as a house.”

Mor­rell Park res­id­ent Heath­er Stan­ton told the zon­ers on Jan. 21 that she feared the vari­ance would stay with the prop­erty after McK­eown sells it or moves her busi­ness else­where. 

“This opens the doors for oth­er busi­nesses,” she said. “It is un­ne­ces­sary.”

Beller said his cli­ent is will­ing to ac­cept a zon­ers’ OK for a lim­ited num­ber of years. On Jan. 21, McK­eown told the zon­ers she would move her skin-care busi­ness else­where if it be­comes a suc­cess. She said she wanted to op­er­ate in her house for fin­an­cial reas­ons.

“I’m hop­ing to move from my house to a store­front with­in three years,” McK­eown told the zon­ing board on Jan. 21. 

Beller said his cli­ent would ac­cept pro­vis­os that would lim­it what she could do.

In Janu­ary, McK­eown told the zon­ers she would op­er­ate 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., Tues­day through Sat­urday. She said her work would be by ap­point­ment only and that her cli­ents would ar­rive 1 hour and 15 minutes apart.

In a let­ter read to zon­ers on Jan. 21, O’Neill said “hard­ship” must be proved for the zon­ers to agree to McK­eown’s re­quest. Hard­ship means, he ex­plained a week earli­er, that the prop­erty can not be used any oth­er way than the way it is zoned. There is no hard­ship here, he told the zon­ers.

Neigh­bor­hood res­id­ent Kelly Di­Martino told zon­ers on Jan. 21 that al­low­ing a busi­ness in a res­id­en­tial neigh­bor­hood is a great harm to the area. It would hurt prop­erty val­ues in what she called a “quiet and settled com­munity.” ••

You can reach at jloftus@bsmphilly.com.

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