St. Thomas Syro Malabar Catholic Church at 608 Welsh Rd. has requested a zoning variance to allow them to rent their building to Tacony Academy Charter School for no less than two years. There would be 150 kindergarten and first grade students housed there. Since the School District does not bus kindergarteners, this would cause extreme traffic delays on a dangerous and congested stretch of Welsh Road.
Congregants packed a Greater Bustleton Civic League meeting to force the vote in their favor. The Pastor admitted that they were looking for money for the mortgage and had only the hope of a flashing yellow light to potentially slow down traffic as any attempt to address the extreme safety concerns of the neighbors, some of whom have had relatives and friends injured or killed along that stretch of road. The need for left hand turns into the narrow and nearly hidden driveway will create a major hazard.
The Church promised to withdraw if a traffic study (conducted after schools had let out) returned safety concerns but no study has been made available. They also failed to contact neighbors to discuss the plan, a familiar complaint against the congregation. State Rep. Brendan Boyle and City Councilman Brian O’Neill oppose the variance but have been unsuccessful in getting the Church to withdraw the application. The Zoning Board of Adjustment hearing is Wednesday at 2 p.m.
Informational pickets will be on site from 9:30 am to 10:30 am to express their extreme opposition to this variance, which would ultimately allow a school to exist forever. There are also concerns that the building itself is not configured with classrooms sufficient to meet the state requirements for charter schools. Neighbors have already gathered hundreds of signatures on petitions and additional flyers were hand distributed to more than 20 blocks in the immediate area over this holiday weekend.
-Maureen Greene, Bustleton