Fox Chase community groups tackle two zoning issues

Zoning was the main focus of last night’s joint meeting of the Fox Chase Homeowners Association and Town Watch groups, with two presenters making appeals for variances.

The biggest and most controversial presentation — the second of the night — came from the owners of 8504 Bergen Terrace. Craig Turner, zoning officer for the Fox Chase groups, asked the Zoning Board of Adjustments to postpone a hearing on the property, as the homeowners were unable to make their case at the Association’s November meeting.

With photographs, blueprints and petitions in hand, the owners made the case to the 30-plus residents and political figures at the meeting — the first for 2010.

More zoning matters

The first zoning presentation of the night came from Medical Mission Sisters, who’ve occupied 8400 Pine Rd. for the last 70 years.

The sisters have plans to add senior housing under a program called LIFE.

The Living Independently for the Elderly program would provide apartment-style living for seniors from the Northeast, including transportation and medical assistance.

The program will occupy a building already on the MMS grounds, and spill over into a proposed new building more than 400 feet from the property line.

The total membership of LIFE would be about 300, with 75 to 100 people being served daily on the Pine Road property.

Residents voted unanimously in favor of the variance, with Zoning Officer Craig Turner saying: “I suggest we all give our unbridled support.”

The couple are seeking to add two stories onto the back of their twin home, which would extend the house nearer to the rear property line. They also plan to add on a deck with stairs, and legalize a shed the previous owners constructed in the yard.

Armed with signed petitions of approval from their surrounding rear neighbors, the owners told residents they’d like to add two bedrooms, a bathroom and a hallway on the first floor, in order to house their ailing, elderly parents. The second story would be living space for the family, since the ground floor would be repurposed for their parents.

The owners faced strong opposition from their attached neighbors at 8502 Bergen Terrace, who cited the following reasons for not supporting the renovations: “extensive manipulations will impact the privacy, security and quality of life of our family.”

The neighbors expressed concerns about the potential resale of their home with what they referred to as “extreme alterations” nextdoor.

As tension rose in the room, the owner explained his family has no other options to financially support his father and mother-in-law, whose conditions limit their mobility.

And while the discussion devolved into what residents called “legacy problems” with the previous owners, and concern about neighborhood precedents, Turner kept his cool and steered the presentation back on track without allowing it to take too much time.

Turner gave one final reminder before the owners concluded: “Let’s remember we’re all Fox Chase people here.”

The presentation ended in a vote, with only four people voting in the owners’ favor. They’ll have to face the zoning board with an opposition from the Association and Councilman Brian O’Neill’s office.

Watch the video below for footage from the Medical Mission Sisters’ zoning presentation.

Also at last night’s meeting…State Rep. Brendan Boyle announced his partnership with the Verizon HopeLine, which will collect old cell phones to be donated to victims of domestic violence…2nd District Community Relations Officer Mark Mroz informed residents the district recently added 30 officers who will patrol on foot. Violent crime in the district is down 28 percent from this time last year, he said…7th District Community Relations Officer Rich Simon announced several upcoming meetings: PSA meetings will be held next week for each of the three zones, and a Captain’s Town Hall meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 19.

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