AAA Auto Repair and community group reach zoning agreement

 An ongoing debate between owner and community group regarding the proposed use of the shop space at 5134 Rochelle Ave. has reached a conclusion. (Brian Hickey/WHYY)

An ongoing debate between owner and community group regarding the proposed use of the shop space at 5134 Rochelle Ave. has reached a conclusion. (Brian Hickey/WHYY)

An ongoing debate between owner and community group regarding the proposed use of the shop space at 5134 Rochelle Ave. has reached a conclusion.

At a meeting of the Wissahickon Interested Citizens Association earlier this month, the attending members voted with no opposition to support the owner’s pending application to the Zoning Board of Adjustment for permission to operate an auto repair shop, tire and rim retail store and coffee shop at the location.

Support for the business is contingent upon the owner’s implementation of a number of conditions the civic organization outlined. 

Based on the zoning district the business falls under, owners must recieve support from the appropriate registered community organizations to get the go-ahead from the ZBA on property-use appeals.

The story so far

Arafha and Maghowry Abouzed purchased AAA Auto Repair on Nov. 18, 2013.

According to Jon Miller, president of WICA, the prior owner of AAA Auto Repair, Joe Martinelli, operated an auto repair shop at that location for many years on the basis of a zoning special exception. However, an addendum to that exception stipulated that should the original business cease operations then the property would revert to its previous zoning regulations. 

The property at 5134 Rochelle Ave. came to the attention of WICA over the course of last summer.

Neighbors reported to the civic organization that they had observed tires and rims displayed for sale, as well as cars blocking the sidewalk. 

The City’s Office of Licenses and Inspections issued AAA Auto Repair numerous violations, and the owner’s business license, originally issued on Jan. 15, 2014, was revoked.

On Oct. 17 an order to cease operations was issued to the business. In the meantime, Arafha Abouzed retained counsel and appeared at the September general meeting of WICA to petition for time to address the violations.

In November, WICA received word from the office of Fourth District Councilman Curtis Jones Jr. that a notice to cease operations had been issued to AAA Auto Repair and that neighbors should call 911 in the event that activity was observed on the premises.

Police reported to the property on multiple occasions but no arrests were made.

In December L&I turned down AAA Auto Repair’s application for zoning. An appeal hearing with the ZBA is scheduled for February 25, 2015.

In the meantime, neighbors have continued to file complaints with WICA concerning ongoing operations at AAA Auto Repair.

At the February meeting of the WICA Zoning Committee, the owners of AAA Auto Repair presented their case for appeal to the ZBA.

 Arafha Abouzed’s attorney Vincent De Fino was present, as was a landscape architect who presented plans for the renovation and beautification of the property at 5134 Rochelle Avenue.

“My clients will be hard-pressed to operate a business at this property for anything other than the intended use,” said De Fino.

Jon Miller, speaking for many residents at the meeting, responded, “I want to see economic development in my community. I want to see a functioning business here.”

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