Renovation plans draw ire of Bustleton residents

A former dentist’s office has become a toothache for a group of Bustleton residents who don’t like the property owner’s plan to give the longtime eyesore some reconstructive surgery.

Members of the Greater Bustleton Civic League voted 30–1 on June 22 against the owner’s plan to convert the former medical building and an adjoining house into one, much larger house with about 6,000 square feet of living space, perhaps more.

For his part, Anthony Ruggiero, owner of 811 Charette Road, says that his main objective with the project is to fix a flat, leaky roof. City records show that Anthony and Karen Ruggiero bought the 8,000-square-foot parcel for $172,500 in November 2012. Ruggiero’s architect claims in his renderings that the land is actually 8,439 square feet. That’s almost one-fifth of an acre. The property is on the northwest corner of Charette and Verree roads. It’s zoned for residential use.

Existing structures cover about 3,000 square feet, according to the architect’s paperwork, and are one story high. Neighbors say that a dentist once owned the property and saw patients in the commercial-style portion closest to Verree. The adjoining portion looks like an old house. It’s visible only from Charette.

Ruggiero told the meeting goers that he wants to build a second floor above the former dentist’s office, as well as an attic and an A-frame roof. That would prevent stormwater from accumulating on the roof and leaking inside. The problem is, the existing building is too close to the rear property line. Ruggiero needs 20 feet of clearance but has only eight. That’s why the city refused to grant him a building permit and why he’s appealing to the Zoning Board of Adjustment. The hearing is scheduled for Aug. 16.

During a question-and-answer period with the owner, some neighbors balked at the plan. They said that the proposal wouldn’t match the character of other homes on the block, which are mostly twin ranchers. Others criticized the owner for allowing a family of at least a half-dozen people to live on the property in the meantime, although Ruggiero — who doesn’t live there — doesn’t have a rental license from the city. Ruggiero conceded he doesn’t have a rental license there, but said that he doesn’t collect rent from the tenants. Neighbors suspect that a bigger house will attract even more occupants.

Ruggiero told the neighbors that if he doesn’t win his zoning appeal, he would still be able to build a reconfigured addition that, legally, could add a second and third floor, plus an attic, to the entire existing structure — except for the portion that sits too close to the rear property line. That would increase the total floor space to about 9,000 square feet or more. Ruggiero shared site plans and exterior drawings, but showed no interior renderings.

When asked what he intended to do with his refurbished property, Ruggiero said it would be his “retirement home.”

In unrelated GBCL business:

• President Jack O’Hara reported that residents of the Annen Woods Estates at Walley Avenue and Serota Place (just north of Krewstown Road) had to contact the Department of Environmental Protection recently to report odors of raw sewage in the neighborhood.

An investigation revealed that a clogged sewer had resulted in the contamination of a nearby waterway that flows directly into the Pennypack Creek about 1.5 miles downstream. Downed tree limbs and branches exasperated the problem by allowing the waste to collect in the stream. The DEP cleanup mitigated the odors, O’Hara said, although some remnants of the debris washed downstream.

• O’Hara announced that Fox Chase Farm will host Wednesday night hayrides on July 13 and 27, as well as Aug. 10 and 24, at 6 p.m. Admission is free.

• Police Capt. Michael Gormley of the 7th district reported that major crimes have seen a 16-percent reduction year-to-date in the district, while violent crime is down 4 percent. Despite the reductions, residents should be diligent in reporting any crime or suspicious activity via 911, Gormley said, because the police department allocates resources based in part on the volume of calls for service in the district.

Gormley invited Bustleton-area residents to attend the next Police Service Area 2 meeting on Monday, July 11, at 7 p.m. at Randi’s Restaurant in Grant Plaza. The meeting is a way to speak informally with police to report chronic public safety problems in a small group or individual setting.

Gormley further reminded motorists to be watchful for children playing in and crossing streets during the summer. Now that school is out of session, more kids are outside.

• Ronald Ryan from Town Watch Integrated Services invited residents to attend several events on Aug. 1 and 2 in connection with National Night Out. The city will hold an NNO kickoff rally on Aug. 1 from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Target Shopping Center, 7400 Bustleton Ave. Rallies will be held simultaneously at three other sites outside the Northeast.

On Aug. 2, Town Watch groups from around the Northeast and the city will host their own NNO activities. Contact your local police district for information.

• Vince Tarducci of the Bustleton Bengals youth sports club asked residents to bring used clothing and other household items to a collection on Oct. 1 from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Conwell Avenue and President Street. The donations will generate money for the club and support its effort to build a new gymnasium. ••