Will costly dispute lead ETCA and tavern to a deal?

Leaders of the East Torresdale Civic Association and the owner of Maggie’s Waterfront Café seemed to agree on at least one thing during the ETCA’s monthly meeting on Nov. 14.

Their drawn-out dispute over a series of zoning and operational issues regarding the North Delaware Avenue tavern and restaurant is costing both parties a lot of money in legal-consulting fees.

That realization might be the impetus for new direct negotiations between the parties toward a compromise on their differences.

“If you want to do it, we’ll do it the right way. We’ll sit down and talk about it,” ETCA president Lew Halas told Maggie’s owner, Kevin Goodchild, during the civic group’s Nov. 14 meeting.

Goodchild said that, if renewed negotiations are to occur, he would like them to be done “in a timely fashion,” considering he has been unable to operate the business at full capacity while his plans for expanding the property and its liquor license remain in limbo. Maggie’s is at 9242 N. Delaware Ave. Goodchild also owns adjoining vacant lots at 9250, 9238, 9230 and 9228.

Since taking over the business, which overlooks the Delaware River, about two years ago, Goodchild has been at odds with nearby residents over myriad issues. Neighbors have complained about excessive noise, unruly patrons and illegal parking. Meanwhile, Goodchild has attempted to expand the footprint of the business, along with its food and beverage service, to the roof and the adjoining properties.

In a recent ruling, the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board denied Goodchild’s effort to expand activity permitted by his liquor license. Many neighbors testified against the expansion, although Goodchild says that other neighbors supported it. The business owner plans to appeal the ruling to Commonwealth Court.

In light of the imminent liquor license appeal, Goodchild said that both he and the ETCA would likely have to retain attorneys for further work if they are unable to reach an out-of-court compromise.

Halas said that the ETCA’s executive board would have to approve any future negotiations. The board was scheduled to meet in executive session on Nov. 28, as the Times went to press this week. It could choose to form a new committee of members to engage in the negotiations with the intention of reporting back to the general membership.

Meanwhile, parties on both sides of the divide await a ruling by Philadelphia’s Zoning Board of Adjustment on a series of zoning variances sought by Goodchild but largely opposed by neighbors.

Goodchild and his attorney presented the specifics of the zoning application to residents at the ETCA’s June general meeting. But discussions between the sides faltered.

During a July 5 zoning board hearing, Goodchild and his attorney presented their arguments for the seven variances sought, while numerous neighbors and ETCA members testified in opposition. The zoning board asked the parties to try again to reach a compromise.

On Sept. 26, the ETCA held a special general meeting, in place of its usual executive board meeting, during which members voted to oppose five of the seven variances sought by Goodchild.

This month, Goodchild’s attorney, Shawn Ward, submitted a nine-page memo to the ZBA arguing in favor of the variances on numerous specific points. In the document, Ward questioned whether the ETCA had provided sufficient notice of its special general meeting to Goodchild and to all affected residents and argued that the voting may have been affected.

An attorney for the ETCA then submitted a rebuttal memo to the zoning board. The zoning board has not announced a date for its final decision on Goodchild’s application.

During the Nov. 14 ETCA general meeting, Goodchild noted that the civic group had again failed to provide members with written notice. Typically, the group sends postcards via U.S. mail to members each month. Those postcards were not distributed before the meeting.

ETCA leaders acknowledged that the latest postcard mailing did not occur. But the group meets on the same day every month (the second Monday) and maintains a Web site (easttorresdalecivic.com) where meeting dates and other information are posted.

In unrelated ETCA business:

• The civic group announced nominations for its executive board. Elections will be held at the Dec. 12 general meeting. Nominees include Lew Halas (president), Bill Kennedy (first vice president), Joe Drioli (second vice president), Connie Siffel (recording secretary) and Alice Urbanski (treasurer), along with several committee chair positions. Additional nominations will be accepted until the election.

• The next ETCA general meeting will be on Monday, Dec. 12, at 7 p.m., at Liberty Evangelical Free Church, Linden Avenue and Milnor Street. ••

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