Plans for baseball batting cages stalled by zoning flap

Joe Brown swung and thought he had connected, but instead, his hit got him involved in a disputed call.

The Mayfair man told members of the Parkwood Civic Association last week that he thought he’d gained approval to put a softball and baseball training facility in a McNulty Road warehouse, but now he isn’t sure it will actually happen.

Brown said he has invested a lot of time and money in establishing his Sluggersville Indoor Training Facility at the site at 12285 McNulty Road. The property is zoned for industrial use, which meant Brown had to ask the Parkwood civic group for its support and then obtain a zoning variance from the city Zoning Board of Adjustment.

He got Parkwood’s blessing in May and notched the city zoners’ OK in July. He thought he was heading for home with his baseball venture, but now the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corp. is threatening to sue him if he proceeds, Brown explained at the civic association’s Sept. 21 meeting at St. Anselm Church.

City Councilman Brian O’Neill (R-10th dist.) also opposes Brown’s plans.

So what’s the problem with using some empty warehouse space for a sports facility?

Over the summer, the councilman and PIDC said there is a restriction on the property’s deed that reserves it for industrial, not commercial, use. O’Neill told the Northeast Times then that he doesn’t like to see industrial buildings used for anything but industry.

Brown said his attorney maintains there are 15 non-conforming zoning uses in the area. One is a bank, he said. Besides, he added, his zoning variance is good for only three years. After that, if industrial use of the site were needed, it shouldn’t be a problem, Brown contended.

He noted previously that he wouldn’t make any changes to the building.

Sluggersville would contain 10 “tunnels,” or netted training areas, within a space that measures about 122 feet by 73 feet. He would install turf and netting only.

Brown said PIDC is threatening to sue even though he had public support and no one appealed the zoning variance he received.

O’Neill aide Anne Marie Boyle said the councilman had nothing personally against Brown and hoped he would find a place that is properly zoned.

“It’s rare that we support commercial going into industrial,” she said.

Industrial jobs are better-paying and have better benefits than jobs outside of industry, she said. Months ago, Brown told the civic association that the property has been vacant for three years.

A few residents clearly were on Brown’s side.

There is no industry, one man said. ldquo;We need people back in the city.”

FREE TREES

Liz Haegele, Pennsylvania Horticultural Society urban forestry coordinator, said PHS has hundreds of trees that it will give — at no charge — to Northeast residents for backyard planting.

A homeowner or a renter who has landlord approval can get one or two trees, but application must be made right away. The deadline is this Saturday, Oct. 1. To get on the list, call Haegele at 215–988–1618.

Anyone who gets a tree must pick it up and plant it. That means having the right vehicle, because the young trees are 6 to 7 feet. PHS will provide planting instructions.

The pickup point will be the Pennypack Environmental Center on Verree Road. ••

Reporter John Loftus can be reached at 215–354–3110 or jloftus@bsmphilly.com