Rhawnhurst Civic discusses zoning, recent homicide

The civic group recently voted against a church’s zoning application to install living quarters at its Bustleton Avenue site and heard an update about a Sept. 8 deadly shooting.

Residents at the Rhawnhurst Civic Association’s Sept. 20 meeting voted to oppose a church’s zoning application to install living quarters at a former synagogue on Bustleton Avenue.

New Testament Ministries, owner of 7524 Bustleton Ave., has filed an appeal with the Zoning Board of Adjustment for a permit to allow up to 16 people to live on the property as an accessory use. Plans presented by zoning attorney Shawn Ward call for the construction of seven bedrooms, but the zoning application includes as many as eight.

Ward, who gave a presentation at the meeting, said the rooms would be used strictly for ministers and other people associated with the church. He compared it to a convent or rectory.

“It’s not a hotel,” Ward said. “It’s not a boarding house.”

Ward said the church normally has three ministers who are stationed at the location for a period of two to three years. Visiting preachers and other church officials would also be allowed to stay in the rooms for a short period of time.

The property, which was formerly Congregation Ner Zedek-Ezrath Israel Beth Uziel, also has a license to run a daycare. No daycare is currently being operated by the church, Ward said. It is an active church that holds regular services.

Ken Kline, the civic association’s president, expressed concerns about having adults who are not vetted living on the site of a possible daycare.

“In the climate that we are in today, I will have no vote or no part in putting children with people who come to stay short-term in the building,” he said.

The church appeared before the ZBA Aug. 1. The board agreed to hear the case but declined to make a decision until the church appeared before the community.

Kline said the church held a community meeting independent of the civic association before the ZBA hearing.

“Every part of this process was usurped and done completely backwards,” he said.

The vote was 11 to 4 in opposition to the church’s appeal. In addition, all four members of the civic association’s board voted against allowing the church to proceed with its plans. It is not clear when the ZBA will vote on the application.

City records indicate New Testament Ministries purchased the property last year for $1.6 million. The congregation has nearly 400 members, according to a church representative.

In other news, 2nd Police District community relations officer Mark Mroz was a guest speaker at the meeting, and he addressed a recent homicide.

As previously reported by the Times, William Crawford, 35, of Castor Gardens, died after being shot Sept. 8 on the 1900 block of Hartel Ave., according to police.

Mroz said no arrests have been made in connection to the shooting. He said investigators believe the victim was targeted.

“This male, we believe, was involved in some type of argument, and he was targeted,” Mroz told residents. “We believe he was followed, and it was just the right opportunity.”

“We are not looking for anybody in this specific area that we believe was involved in that,” he added.

Mroz also said the 2nd district will be hosting a “Coffee with a Cop” event from 7 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 3, at New Olympia House Restaurant, 7242 Castor Ave.

The next Rhawnhurst Civic Association and Eyes & Ears Community Watch meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 18, at Rhawnhurst Presbyterian Church, 7701 Loretto Ave. ••

Jack Tomczuk can be reached at jtomczuk@newspapermediagroup.com