Councilman offers to fund methadone clinic fight

City Coun­cil­man Bobby Hen­on has pledged to cov­er the cost of the ini­tial phase of the com­munity’s ap­peal seek­ing to bar a meth­adone clin­ic from open­ing on the Frank­ford Av­en­ue com­mer­cial cor­ridor, ask­ing that they “send me a bill.”

The Heal­ing Way, which wants to open the clin­ic at Frank­ford Av­en­ue and Dec­atur Street, earli­er this month 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.

The ap­pel­lants must now file a Pe­ti­tion for Al­low­ance of Ap­peal, the first in a series of steps in hopes the case will be heard by the Pennsylvania Su­preme Court.

“I ab­so­lutely sup­port provid­ing ac­cess to safe, re­spons­ible treat­ment for drug ad­dic­tion,” Hen­on said. “The key word is ‘re­spons­ible.’ The Heal­ing Way has pro­posed to situ­ate in the middle of a thriv­ing com­mer­cial cor­ridor, next to schools and day­care cen­ters in a com­munity united in op­pos­i­tion.

ldquo;We’re a com­munity of fight­ers and we have to keep fight­ing. “I’ve been work­ing with [the com­munity] on this since be­fore I was elec­ted, but we need to keep go­ing. Stay or­gan­ized, keep knock­ing on doors and keep up the pres­sure.”

Al­though Hen­on will help fund the ap­peal, clin­ic foes — which in­clude the May­fair and Holmes­burg civic as­so­ci­ations, the May­fair Busi­ness As­so­ci­ation and the May­fair Com­munity De­vel­op­ment Cor­por­a­tion — also are try­ing to raise money so an at­tor­ney from Ober­may­er, Reb­mann, Max­well and Hip­pel can ap­peal to the state’s highest court.

The Heal­ing Way must ob­tain per­mits from the Pennsylvania Health De­part­ment be­fore open­ing a fa­cil­ity that 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.

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. ••

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