The Somerton Civic Association has rejected a neighborhood gas station owner’s plan to build three auto service bays.
During the SCA’s monthly meeting on March 11, opponents of the proposal cited traffic congestion in the area of Bustleton Avenue and Verree Road as well as a parking shortage as prohibitive factors. Civic association members voted down the project, 23-16, even after the business owner, Joseph Cherian, offered to reduce the size of the planned construction. The Astro station occupies a triangular quarter-acre property at 10188 Bustleton Ave. and features four fuel pumps as well as a convenience store. Cherian said he recently bought the business and applied for a permit to build three service bays near the Verree Road side of the property. But the city’s Department of Licenses and Inspection refused to grant the permit because the plans do not conform to the zoning code.
A drawing of the proposed configuration shows that the new construction would measure 36 feet by 25 feet and stand one story high. One corner of the new building would sit about five feet from the business’ Verree Road curb cut. The business would have to move its Dumpsters from the Verree side of the property to the Bustleton Avenue side, across the street from the Bustleton Branch Library and George Washington High School.
Cherian said that the repair shop would operate weekdays from about 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturdays from 9 to noon. Mechanics would perform basic auto maintenance, repairs and inspections, but would not do body work or painting. Cherian claimed that having the service bays would help the business to prevent teenagers from loitering in the parking lot. The business owner’s drawing showed one customer parking spot on the property, not including the spots adjacent to the fuel pumps.
Civic association members argued that he would have to use on-street parking spots to store vehicles before and after they were being repaired.
In an effort to forge a compromise, SCA Zoning Chairman Seth Kaplan asked Cherian if he’d consider building only two service bays instead of three and agree to several other provisos, including bans on auto sales and overnight storage of vehicles. Cherian agreed, but civic association members voted against the plan anyway.
Although the SCA will send a letter of opposition to the city’s Zoning Board, Cherian will still have an opportunity to state his case to the board in hope of winning his appeal.
In an unrelated zoning case, the civic association passed unanimously a plan by the Somerton Center nursing home at 650 Edison Ave. to build a 17-foot by 17-foot storage shed in place of two temporary storage containers that now occupy the property. The home needs the space to store oxygen machines and other non-hazardous medical equipment, according to Arthur Lyons, the director of the home.
City Councilman David Oh served as a guest speaker at the meeting. The at-large Republican touted two Council bills that he recently introduced. One bill calls for a $100 million reduction in the city wage tax over 10 years in an effort to put more cash in workers’ pockets and inject that money into the local economy.
Oh has also proposed eliminating the city’s “resign to run” law for elected officials. Under the law, politicians who hold elected offices in city government must resign if they want to run for another office on the local, state or federal levels. Oh argues that this puts local politicians at a particular disadvantage in running for state offices. As a result, Philadelphia politicians lose clout in Harrisburg and the city’s interests suffer, according to Oh.
Beverly Plosa-Bowser, Republican, told SCA members that she is running for the 13th Congressional District seat that will be vacated by gubernatorial candidate Allyson Schwartz. A retired U.S. Air Force colonel, she is running on a platform of fixing the stagnant economy, reining in excessive government and healing “the recent healthcare debacle.” She will face Dee Adcock from Abington in the May 20 Republican primary. ••