Methadone clinic opponents to hold public meeting

Opponents of a proposed methadone clinic at Frankford Avenue and Decatur Street in Holmesburg will hold a public meeting on Tuesday, July 16, at 6 p.m. at Abraham Lincoln High School.

The meeting follows last month’s ruling by Common Pleas Court Judge Idee C. Fox, who sustained an appeal of a Zoning Board of Adjustment decision, enabling The Healing Way to open a methadone clinic, assuming it can obtain permits from the state Department of Health.

Attorneys Dawn Tancredi and Phil McFillin, who represent neighbors opposed to the clinic, immediately vowed to appeal the judge’s decision.

Clinic opponents include the Holmesburg, Mayfair, Holme Circle and Tacony civic associations; the Mayfair Business Association; the Mayfair Community Development Corporation; the Mayfair and Tacony/Holmesburg Town Watch groups; and City Councilman Bobby Henon, state Reps. Kevin Boyle and John Taylor, state Sen. Mike Stack and U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz.

“It was disappointing, to say the least,” Henon said of the judge’s ruling on the clinic. “Nobody wants it. It doesn’t conform with the local business plan there. It’s a commercial corridor.”

The Healing Way wants to open a clinic in a first-floor tenant space at 7900–04 Frankford Ave. The facility would dispense methadone, which is used to wean addicts off drugs. It is usually administered in liquid form.

The fight over the clinic dates to January 2011, when the city Department of Licenses and Inspections issued a use permit for the Frankford Avenue site, and THW obtained building permits for interior alterations of the 4,830-square-foot property.

Neighbors appealed L&I’s issuance of the permit.

The zoning board heard the appeal in August 2011, but did not issue a ruling until March 2012. The board determined by a 4–1 vote that a methadone clinic — unlike a medical office, hospital or medical center — is not a permitted use of a property that is zoned C-2.

The Healing Way appealed that ruling to Common Pleas Court, and Fox heard arguments in December 2012. A city lawyer sided with THW at the hearing.

In her June 19 written opinion, the judge determined that a methadone clinic is a permitted use of a C-2 property, and that the zoning board was wrong to rule otherwise. Thus, THW can seek permits from the state Health Department.

“The state should not consider the application of The Healing Way while there is still an outstanding zoning issue,” Boyle said.

Neighbors opposed to the clinic fear loitering, a decline in property values and a financial harm to existing businesses and vow to continue to fight against it.

“This is not the end in any way,” Boyle said. “The fight goes on against this.”

The property that The Healing Way wants to use has been vacant since 2008, when the Last Call bar closed after a shooting outside the establishment. The clinic would operate daily from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. and would serve about 200 patients per day.

The court ruling is the second recent victory for methadone clinic operators. In April, the zoning board approved a bid by NorthEast Treatment Centers to open a clinic at 7520 State Road. The Mayfair and Holmesburg civic associations, along with some State Road businesses, oppose the facility. Attorney Frank Bennett will take the community’s appeal to Common Pleas Court. ••