When Philadelphia officials created and adopted a new zoning code three years ago, one of the purposes was to make the voluminous document easier to understand and navigate for property owners and lessees, large and small. But some folks are still missing the boat.
Take the example of the Mt. Horeb Church of God, which has appeared before the Mayfair Civic Association twice, most recently at the Nov. 16 MCA meeting, yet church leaders are still trying to figure out how to get the special zoning permit that they need to assemble legally.
In September, the fledgling church’s pastor, David Doresca, and his family attended a Mayfair Civic meeting to ask the group’s support for a zoning application that would allow his congregation to worship inside a storefront at 7201–11 Frankford Ave. Although many neighbors seemed averse to the idea of yet another religious group setting up shop in the local commercial district where retail shops and professional offices are considered ideal, civic association members voted by a narrow margin to give their conditional consent to the church.
The civic association was prepared to send a letter of approval to the city’s Zoning Board of Adjustment, but then the church’s own attorney put on the brakes. The lawyer, Joseph Vaccaro, determined that the church had failed to notify neighbors of the prior community meeting in accordance with the zoning requirement. Vaccaro, who did not represent the church initially, advised his client to make a second presentation to the civic association.
During the Nov. 16 civic meeting, the group essentially treated its September vote as invalid due to the circumstances. MCA Zoning Chairman Joe DeFelice asked if any of the association’s present members had received a notice about the church’s application. No one raised a hand.
Further into the discussion, civic group members asked the church’s attorney for site plans and photographs of the property. But none were available. They inquired about the floor area of the property. The applicants were not sure of the square footage.
Citing all of those circumstances, the civic group’s executive board tabled a new vote on the application. The zoning board was scheduled to re-hear the case on Nov. 18, but Vaccaro said that he planned to ask for a postponement.
Two other zoning applicants fared a lot better during the Nov. 16 Mayfair Civic meeting.
Members unanimously approved, with standard conditions, a dental group’s plan to open a 3,800-square-foot office in the Roosevelt Plaza at Roosevelt Boulevard and Harbison Avenue. A special exception is required for any new medical-related practice in the city’s 6th or 10th councilmanic districts. That regulation was a product of the fight by neighbors and City Council members in the Northeast to gain more control over the proliferation of drug addiction clinics that distribute methadone and other narcotic treatments.
The new dental practice will be known as iSmile Dental Group. Grace Lee, DDS, is the owner. Ilya Imyanitov will manage the practice.
Mayfair Civic members also approved unanimously, with standard conditions, the renewal of a zoning variance for a child daycare program in a commercial property at 6354 Cardiff St. (the corner of Cardiff and Levick streets). The site is across Levick Street from a U.S. Post Office and the 2nd/15th Police District. Two years ago, the center obtained a temporary zoning variance. No complaints have been reported to the civic association since then.
In other MCA business:
• Treasurer Jim Ortlieb asked neighbors to donate to an American flag installation project for Rowland Avenue between Frankford Avenue and Welsh Road. With donations collected via www.GoFundMe.com/rowlandflags, the civic association hopes to line the avenue with Stars and Stripes next spring. About $500 has been raised of the $1,200 goal.
• DeFelice reported that the Mayfair Community Development Corporation recently sold a rehabilitated rowhome on the 3400 block of Ryan Ave. for $150,000 to complete the conservatorship process there. The CDC is planning to rehab two other vacant homes on the 3300 block of Bleigh Ave. and 3200 block of Ryan Ave. through the same process, which is guided by state law.
The CDC is also moving forward with the creation of a Business Improvement District on Frankford and Cottman avenues. Under the plan, property owners on the avenues will be assessed a fee that will fund physical improvements and marketing for the commercial district.
• Lisa Greco of the Mayfair Business Association invited the community to attend a tree lighting and Christmas village on Dec. 6 from noon to 5 p.m. at Frankford and Cottman avenues.
• Mia Hylan of Mayfair Memorial Playground reported that about 300 children took part in the recent Halloween Spooktacular fundraiser to benefit the playground on Rowland Avenue in front of Lincoln High School. In addition, Home Depot employees recently completed a day of service when they painted and planted flowers at the playground. ••