Somerton Civic approves nursing home expansion

The Somerton Civic Association approved the proposed expansion of the St. John Neumann Center nursing home despite vocal opposition from immediate neighbors of the site.

During their monthly meeting on Sept. 13, SCA members voted 61–35 in favor of a two-story addition to the existing 226-bed facility at 10200 Roosevelt Blvd., which provides long-term care and subacute inpatient rehabilitation. In an often tense debate about the plan, opponents cited their objection to a paved parking lot that would be installed on a lawn at the southwest portion of the property, near homes on the 2000 block of Greymont St.

The city’s Zoning Board of Adjustment approved the application in a Sept. 14 hearing. Neumann Center representatives say they plan to start construction next spring. The work will continue for about 18 months.

The Neumann Center was one of seven nursing and assisted living homes that the Archdiocese of Philadelphia sold to Flushing, New York-based Center Management Group for $145 million in August 2013.

An attorney for Center Management, Matthew N. McClure, said that the operator does not plan to increase occupancy of the Neumann Center. Rather, the intent is to build 54 new single-occupancy rooms that will allow the home to reduce the number of double- and triple-occupancy rooms it offers.

The Neumann Center campus covers 10.74 acres over three parcels, according to city tax records. The largest parcel, 10200 Roosevelt Blvd., is 8.12 acres and includes the nursing home as well as two parking lots. A second adjoining parcel, 10100 Roosevelt Blvd., is one-half acre and has an 860-square-foot cottage. A third parcel of just more than two acres features another parking lot and open field.

To facilitate the expansion, Center Management plans to knock down the unoccupied cottage. The addition would cover 40,340 square feet. The existing facility has a footprint of about 130,000 square feet. The new parking lot would include 22 spaces and provide visitors with direct access to the addition.

At one point during the civic meeting, a neighbor complained that the two-story addition would be too close to a nearby home. The structure would be 30 feet from the neighbor’s backyard, McClure said. Other opponents of the project said they had no problem with the building. Their issue is with the new parking lot. They complained that the lot would reduce greenspace, attract more traffic to residential streets, result in nuisance problems such as litter and would hurt their property values.

City Councilman Brian O’Neill told opponents that their case would be very difficult to make before the Zoning Board because Center Management did not need a full zoning variance from the city. Rather, the company needed only a “special exception,” which requires a much lower standard for the board’s approval under the zoning code.

That’s why his office met with residents and Center Management officials to discuss potential compromises. As a result of those conversations, O’Neill said, company officials agreed to move the proposed entrance for the parking lot from Greymont Street to Roosevelt Boulevard. The company also agreed to erect a fence along Greymont Street to prevent its visitors from using the street for parking. Further, Center Management agreed to maintain a buffer area of green space along Greymont Street. It would vary in width from 80 feet to 120 feet.

As a result of the civic association’s vote, members ratified all of those provisions in their conditional approval of the project.

In other meeting business:

• SCA President Seth Kaplan reported that the civic group’s American flag installation project was a success. Local businesses and residents donated funding, supplies and labor to install dozens of flags on utility poles along Bustleton Avenue from Red Lion Road to County Line Road. The civic association is still accepting monetary donations for the project, which had some cost overruns, he said. Visit somertoncivic.com for information.

• City Councilman Allan Domb said he is prioritizing three issues in his first term. Domb was elected last November and took office in January.

He wants the Office of Property Assessment to fix commercial property assessments that are largely askew. He also wants the city to recoup $700 million in delinquent taxes while improving its real estate tax collection rate and wants to reform the pension program for city workers, which is underfunded by about $6 billion.

• State Rep. Martina White invited residents to a Senior Dance on Sept. 29 from 3:30 to 6:30 p.m. at District Council 21, 2980 Southampton Road. She will also host a prescription drug disposal event on Oct. 22 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Engine 22, 3270 Comly Road. Residents can safely discard of unwanted medications.

• Scott Heppard, district director for U.S. Rep. Brendan Boyle, said that any high school seniors who are considering applying for one of the U.S. military academies must contact his office at 2375 Woodward St. The deadline is Oct. 15. Call 215–676–0300. Boyle is also offering White House and U.S. Capitol tours to constituents.

• Mike McAleer, a constituent services representative for state Sen. John Sabatina, invited constituents to a Senior Expo on Oct. 7 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the National Guard Armory, 2700 Southampton Road. ••