Northeast Times

Councilman urges Bustleton Civic to invest

If you’re go­ing to spend money on any­thing, mem­bers of the Great­er Bustleton Civic League were told last week, spend your or­gan­iz­a­tion’s dol­lars to pre­serve your neigh­bor­hood.

“Pro­tect­ing your com­munity is what your money is for,” City Coun­cil­man Bri­an O’Neill (R-10th dist.) told league mem­bers dur­ing their Feb. 26 ses­sion. “Don’t be afraid to use it.”

The coun­cil­man said de­cisions by the city’s Zon­ing Board of Ad­just­ment that are not “com­munity friendly” will drive the middle class out of the city.

Prop­erty own­ers and de­velopers fre­quently ask for the league’s sup­port on zon­ing mat­ters, and the league tells the zon­ing board wheth­er its mem­bers are in sup­port or op­pos­i­tion. The zon­ers don’t al­ways see things the way league mem­bers do.

They didn’t in late 2012 when they had ap­proved a tem­por­ary zon­ing vari­ance that per­mit­ted the op­er­a­tion of a dent­al im­plant-man­u­fac­tur­ing busi­ness in a home on the 9900 block of Hal­de­man Av­en­ue. League mem­bers had voted over­whelm­ingly against the vari­ance ap­plic­a­tion. At that time, the coun­cil­man ad­vised the league to chal­lenge the zon­ers’ de­cision in court. The league did, and it won. Sort of.

Com­mon Pleas Court, in­stead of over­turn­ing the zon­ing board de­cision on 9997 Hal­de­man Ave., sent it back to the zon­ers to re­hear it on one is­sue — hard­ship.

The prop­erty is zoned for res­id­en­tial use only. The court found the ap­plic­ant didn’t prove the house couldn’t be used as a home.

ldquo;We feel very strongly about this,” said Jack O’Hara, the league’s pres­id­ent. “This is break­ing up res­id­en­tial neigh­bor­hoods.”

O’Hara said the new hear­ing has been post­poned and post­poned again.

State Rep. John Sabat­ina Jr. (D-174th) said it was his ex­per­i­ence that zon­ers don’t al­ways abide by the de­cisions of civic as­so­ci­ations. Those loc­al de­cisions should have more weight than they seem to have, but if zon­ers err and it costs as­so­ci­ations time and money to battle the mis­take, he said, the Zon­ing Board of Ad­just­ment should be culp­able for bad de­cisions.

City Coun­cil­man Dav­id Oh told mem­bers he has pre­pared le­gis­la­tion that would re­duce the city’s wage tax and net profits tax by $100,000 over 10 years. He said the wage tax has caused a re­duc­tion in the city’s pop­u­la­tion.

“It hurts work­ing fam­il­ies,” he said.

It also in­creases busi­nesses’ spend­ing be­cause they have to of­fer high­er wages to em­ploy­ees to make up for what they lose in wage taxes.

Oh also pitched end­ing the city’s Home Rule Charter re­quire­ment that pub­lic of­fi­cials who hold city seats must resign if they in­tend to run for of­fices oth­er than their own. This reg­u­la­tion pre­vents the city from hav­ing a great­er in­flu­ence on state af­fairs, he said, be­cause city politi­cians don’t want to risk their po­s­i­tions from run­ning for state of­fices.

Amy Kur­land, the city’s in­spect­or gen­er­al, told mem­bers about her of­fice’s in­vest­ig­a­tions.

When she served as an as­sist­ant U.S. at­tor­ney, she said she pro­sec­uted people from al­most every city de­part­ment.

“And it was really dis­cour­aging,” she said, “be­cause I would pro­sec­ute the same thing over and over.”

Her mis­sion, she said, is to boost con­fid­ence in city gov­ern­ment by root­ing out fraud and cor­rup­tion.

Her of­fice looks in­to su­per­visors’ con­duct, fraud and works with law en­force­ment to pro­sec­ute crim­in­al cases. Her of­fice also works to en­force city policies, like those re­quir­ing par­ti­cip­a­tion by minor­ity- and wo­men-owned busi­nesses in pub­lic con­tracts.

The league’s next monthly ses­sion will be 7 p.m. on Wed­nes­day, March 26, at the Amer­ic­an Her­it­age Fed­er­al Cred­it Uni­on’s Car­riage House, Red Li­on Road and Jam­is­on. 

The league’s hot line is 215-676-6890, and its web­site is gb­c­league.org ••

You can reach at jloftus@bsmphilly.com.

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