Lengthy Bustleton Civic meeting focuses on zoning
Members of the Greater Bustleton Civic League aren’t a shy bunch. Anyone who has ever attended the organization’s monthly meetings could see how fair a characterization that is.
At the Jan. 25 session, for example, a property owner who wants to divide his parcel got a disapproving earful. So did, off and on, Fran Burns, commissioner of the city’s Department of Licenses and Inspections.
In between, members heard various requests for support of zoning variances with varying degrees of respectful attention and testiness.
In all, the meeting was fairly typical in tone, although unusual in length — about three hours.
Members voted on just one zoning request. They supported a Verizon variance application that will allow the telephone company to put cellular equipment on a PECO transmission tower off of 1998 Red Lion Road. Verizon presented its request at the league’s December meeting.
Burns and Tom McDade, L&I’s executive director for development services, attended the meeting at the request of City Councilwoman Maria Quiñones-Sánchez (D-7th dist.) to talk about the department and discuss 9432 Roosevelt Blvd., a property that has long been a concern to league members.
Back in 2009, a plan to site a methadone clinic on the property drew so much community opposition that it was scrapped even though no zoning changes were needed.
Last year, members supported putting an adult day-care facility at the address, but after the Zoning Board of Adjustment granted the necessary zoning variances, the property was not sold to the company that was going to operate that day-care center. Instead, it was sold to Merck Real Estate LLC of Bloomsburg, Pa., which is refitting the long-vacant building for medical and office use.
Members complained to Burns that they believed work had begun in the fall before the proper building permits had been obtained and that, since obtained, the permits either have not been properly displayed or don’t cover the work being done. No one from Merck was at the Jan. 25 meeting.
“We have had quite a few concerns and 311 calls … about the work being done,” Burns said.
Burns told the crowd the work had been inspected more than once and that it was being done properly, which led some members to ladle out some scorn about the worthiness of the inspections.
One member complained that L&I employees “don’t make people dot their ‘i’s or cross their ‘t’s,” so work could have the appearance that it wasn’t being done correctly or the work permits weren’t being properly displayed.
John McKeever, the league’s president, said Burns had to leave and promised to forward to her any other questions the members had.
Members then heard requests for support for higher-than- allowed fencing, an oversized shed, an outdoor parking space and for Randi’s restaurant on Grant Avenue to be allowed to have a piano player as well as making one tenant space for the restaurant. Randi’s banquet room currently is considered a separate address.
Members’ ire became apparent when they heard a request by property owner Gene Sterin to relocate his lot line at 9708 Bustleton to create, in effect, two lots — one residential and one commercial.
Currently, the parcel contains a residence that is rented out and a commercial building that now has a produce store. Because the single property contains both residential and commercial zoning, the strictest regulations, in this case residential zoning rules, apply to the whole property.
Every time Sterin wants to do something new on the commercial portion of his property, he has to get zoning board approval. If the property is divided into separate residential and commercial lots, he won’t have to do that.
Attorney Ronald Patterson’s explanation of Sterin’s zoning application drew a lot of questions as well as comments from members. Many of the property’s neighbors attended the meeting and complained about Sterin’s tenants, along with noise, smell, trash collection, parking and traffic problems.
One resident asked Patterson what the community would benefit by supporting Sterin’s request. The attorney’s question-for-a-question reply of “What detriment?” prompted some grumbles.
If Sterin wants to continue seeking the league’s support, he’ll have to come to the league’s February meeting along with the other applicants.
Civic league member Maureen Greene encouraged residents to oppose Sterin’s request because the current zoning forces him to try to obtain league backing for any matter he brings before the Zoning Board of Adjustment. Greene said members shouldn’t give up the only control they have.
Sterin’s zoning board hearing on his application was held earlier this month, but no decision was made, McKeever said on Friday.
The league’s next meeting will be Wednesday, Feb. 22, at 7:30 p.m., at the American Heritage Federal Credit Union on Red Lion Road. Members then will vote on some of the zoning issues brought before them in January.
McKeever said a Krewstown Road church also will make a request for support for use of a building on its property at the Feb. 22 session. ••