Mayfair, Holmesburg civics raise funds to appeal methadone clinic

Opponents of a planned methadone clinic at Frankford Avenue and Decatur Street are planning a last-ditch effort to prevent the business from opening.

The Healing Way, which wants to open the clinic, last week won a big court victory when a three-judge Commonwealth Court panel rejected an appeal by neighbors opposed to the proposed operation. The state court affirmed an earlier ruling by Philadelphia Common Pleas Court, which OK’d the clinic.

Now, clinic foes are trying to raise money so an attorney from Obermayer, Rebmann, Maxwell and Hippel can appeal to Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

City Councilman Bobby Henon supports the appeal.

I am disheartened but undeterred by the Commonwealth Court’s opinion and stand firmly behind the community, its civic and business leaders and neighbors in opposition to the Healing Way,” he said. “In the coming days and weeks, we will regroup and decide on a path forward. That path must include cultivating vibrant commercial corridors with business that is welcomed by the community rather than forced on it.”

The Mayfair and Holmesburg civic associations are leading the effort to raise money for the appeal.

The Healing Way has already spent a lot of money on legal representation and the renovations and lease at the Frankford Avenue property, and will be ready for what should be one final court battle. The firm must also obtain permits from the state health department before opening. Commonwealth Court Judges Bonnie Brigance Leadbetter, Robert Simpson and Kevin Brobson were unanimous in their ruling in favor of the facility, which would dispense methadone, a drug that is used to help addicts kick the habit. It is usually administered in liquid form. The clinic would operate daily from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. and would serve about 200 patients per day.

Neighbors opposed to the clinic worry about loitering, a decrease in property values, an increase in traffic, a lack of parking and a negative impact on existing businesses. In addition, they point to the clinic’s proximity to day care centers, schools, dance studios and churches.

The fight over the clinic dates to January 2011, when the city Department of Licenses and Inspections issued a use permit for 7900–04 Frankford Ave., 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 of Adjustment heard the appeals in August 2011, then ruled in March 2012 in 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 Judge Idee Fox heard arguments in December 2012. A city lawyer sided with THW at the hearing. In her written opinion, Fox determined that a methadone clinic is a permitted use of a C-2 property, and that the zoning board was wrong in its ruling.

After that ruling, U.S. Reps. Allyson Schwartz and Bob Brady wrote a letter to a Department of Justice Drug Enforcement Administration official, urging the agency to halt development of the clinic.

The Mayfair Business Association, Mayfair Community Development Corporation, various civic associations and a number of elected officials oppose the clinic.

The courts, though, look like they will have the final say. The Healing Way wants to move into a property that has been vacant since 2008. The Last Call closed that year after a shooting outside the bar. ••