Somerton kicks in support for martial-arts studio

The Somerton Civic Association on Sept. 13 gave nearly unanimous approval for the legalization of a commercial martial arts studio in a light industrial property on Damar Drive.

Premier Martial Arts has been operating out of a 4,000-square-foot rental unit at 13440 Damar Drive for several years, but never obtained a city use permit for the site, according to the owner and chief instructor, David Pantano.

Speaking at the SCA’s monthly general meeting, Pantano further told neighbors that the city’s Department of Licenses and Inspections also cited the business for posting non-conforming signs.

Now, Pantano is seeking the use permit and approval for a flat sign to be posted on the front wall of the business.

Neighbors voted 41–1 in favor of the use permit. The operator of a rival martial arts studio cast the lone dissenting vote.

In addition to martial arts training, Pantano said he conducts limited retail sales on-site. Specifically, students may buy uniforms and equipment for use in classes. When one neighbor asked if the equipment included weapons, Pantano replied that the training devices include blunt or wooden swords, but no actual combat weapons are available.

Neighbors were more concerned with the sign issue. Pantano applied for permission to post a 4-foot-by-8-foot placard. SCA members voted 19–17 against allowing the sign. Opponents deemed it too big. Pantano offered to reduce the size of the sign. SCA board members said they would inspect the site and contact him with a recommendation.

The civic group voted on two other zoning issues at the Sept. 13 meeting.

Members voted unanimously to allow a woman to build a vestibule outside her front door in the Timberwalk complex at 10231 Murty Lane.

The woman complained that water floods the house during rainstorms because the entrance sits at ground level. She’s proposing a 4-foot-by-8-foot covered entranceway that would shield her door from the weather. Neighbors in her complex already have similar structures on their units, she said.

The structure would encroach by 2 feet upon the minimum setback of 8 feet required under the zoning code.

In a separate issue, the civic group split evenly on an application by the owner of a home at 276 Ridgeway Plaza to legalize a converted garage and shed addition. The final vote on the garage was 19 for and 19 against.

Previously, residents converted the garage into a family room and built the rear storage shed without permits. The house is a duplex occupied by a couple, their three grown children, their daughter-in-law and their grandchild.

Some neighbors expressed concern that the owners planned to use the converted garage as a separate unit — thereby turning the duplex into a triplex. The applicants assured skeptics that the living space would merely be an extension of the existing home.

Neighbors further voted 20–17 against consenting to the rear shed.

In crime-related news, community relations officer Rich Simon of the 7th Police District reported that Police Service Area 3, which includes all of Somerton, had 12 burglaries reported last month. So, residents should remain vigilant about securing their homes.

Doors and windows should be kept locked at all times, while residents should report suspicious activity on their blocks to 911, Simon advised.

The civic association announced that it has ceased sending printed newsletters due to the high cost of postage. In the future, all monthly newsletters will be sent via e-mail. To add yourself to the e-mail list, send a message to scanews1@gmail.com

The next Somerton Civic Association meeting will be on Tuesday, Oct. 11, at 7:30 p.m., at Walker Lodge 306, 1290 Southampton Road. ••

Reporter William Kenny can be reached at 215–354–3031 or bkenny@bsmphilly.com