A proposed dialysis center opposed by the Chestnut Hill Residents Association (CHRA) won a key victory Tuesday at the Philadelphia City Planning Commission.
Endorsing a planning staff recommendation, the commission voted 3-1 to support a Council bill that would rezone as “commercial” a parcel bounded by East Moreland Avenue, Winston Street, East Mermaid Lane and Germantown Avenue.
Under this “C2” zoning, the property can be used for health-related purposes with no restrictions on operating hours. Enter Fresenius Medical Care, a company that hopes to operate a dialysis center and doctor’s offices on the parcel, along with the Delaware Valley Necrophology & Hypertension Association. The building on the site is now vacant.
The residents association takes issue with Fresenius Medical Care’s plans to operate as late as 9 p.m. for six days a week, if demand warrants.
“It is not appropriate for this residential neighborhood,” the association’s Meredith Sonderskov said.
The community members object only to the proposed dialysis center’s third-shift hours – which would run from roughly 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. They argue this would bring “high-volume” night-time traffic to a serene neighborhood, and lower property values. The developer counters that the aging Chestnut Hill community desperately needs a renal therapy provider.
Two Chestnut Hill residents, Susan and Peter Burke, even filed suit over the matter. This summer, the Zoning Board of Adjustment removed a variance that would have restricted the dialysis center’s operating hours. The Burkes appealed the Zoning Board’s decision in the Court of Common Pleas, which then put the project on hold.
Then Eighth District Councilwoman Donna Reed Miller introduced the zoning bill that the planning commission approved Tuesday.
“We have a right to appeal, and you’re going to take that away from us,” Burke said about the bill.
The commission did not have the option to punt on the issue. The city’s Home Rule Charter requires the planning commission to issue a recommendation on any proposed zoning bill.
“We were obligated to do something,” said Gary J. Jastrzab, the commission’s executive director. “We approved the change because it’s consistent with other zoning in that area, and we didn’t perceive the neighborhood impacts to be that onerous. The parking would be in the back of the structure.”
The next step for the bill is a hearing before City Council’s rules committee, which has yet to be scheduled.
Judge Gary DiVito, meanwhile, will hear arguments from the Burkes and the Zoning Board on March 7, 2011.
For a map of the proposed zoning change:
For the text of Donna Reed Miller’s zoning bill: http://legislation.phila.gov/attachments/10719.pdf