Frankford Civic Association executive board votes ‘No’ on the Bridge

The Frankford Civic Association voted Thursday night to write a letter of opposition to the city’s Zoning Board, asking it to deny a zoning variance for the development of a new facility for the Bridge, a school for boys suffering from drug, alcohol and behavioral issues.

“We’ve been just overwhelmed with drug-related facilities, so we need to say ‘no’ because we’re the closest civic,” said association president Brian Wisniewski, referencing tumult over whether the local Frankford, Northwood or Juniata neighborhood group had the authority to vote on the facility. “At first, the Bridge wanted to go to Juniata but they got together with Northwood to try to bum rush Frankford… We have something to say too.”

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No-show owner of 4271 Penn Street panned by Frankford Civic

After receiving a barrage of neighborhood concerns at last month’s meeting, property lawyer Dawn Tancredi from Mattioni Ltd. Counselors at Law returned with everything she promised.

Representing the new owner of 4271 N. Penn Street, at Ruan Street, She brought thick, detailed packets for the property, featuring pictures of the building and its lot, permits, architectural drawings and more. Perhaps more importantly, she brought the owner: Miosotis Jones.

At last month’s meeting, neighborhood concerns seemed to stem from fears surrounding the possibility that this owner would be a derelict absentee landlord, Tancredi had the owner fly in from South America to assuage any fears. Jones was quick to point out that her sister lives in Juniata on J Street, and she would be using a property management company that she would connect with the civic association board.

Tancredi was precise and even-tempered, providing petitions of support from Jones tenants both in Florida, where she also has investment properties, and from 1021 Orthodox Street, which she also owns.

“I don’t just rent to anyone. I take my time, and I care. I don’t need a tenant to pay my mortgage. I do this as an investor and an interior designer,” said Jones, who added that she doesn’t use so-called ‘Section 8’ subsidized housing vouchers, that the apartments will be separately metered and that she has her property management team make sure her properties are good neighbors.

In 1996, the three-story, 3,000 square foot home was re-zoned as a single family residence, though prior to 1949 it had four separate occupancies, Tancredi said. The current owner wants to return the building, which had once had three occupancies and a first-floor storefront, to four one-bedroom apartments, she said. Jones said she would use the third floor herself when she visits her sister.

On April 20, the request for variance went before the city Zoning Board, but Tancredi requested the board went to decide for a letter of support from the civic association. Board President Brian Wisniewski said within the next seven days, the board would send a zoning officer to speak to nearby residents and they would internally offer support if everything meets desired specifications.

“Miostis plans on restoring the building to its original beauty,” said architect Jeremy Lecompte of design firm Harman Deutsch.

To be clear, while the Frankford board has now agreed to write a letter of opposition for the development of an Adams Avenue facility for the Bridge, adjacent Northwood and Juniata civic associations have gone forward with their support and ultimately the city’s Zoning Board makes the final decision.

The vote of active, dues-paying members was six against, including board member Alice Henry voting in abstention, and three for the Bridge. All six opposition votes were civic association board members. Last month’s meeting ended in shouts before a vote could be taken.

There were roughly 10 residents in attendance and a half dozen board members, though, like other civic groups, the association requires members to pay a $10 annual membership fee and be in attendance at four of the last six meetings in order to vote.  After some internal debate, it was confirmed that the current meeting does count to that total.

Local opinion of plans for the Bridge, a celebrated, four-decades-old, adolescent residential treatment facility, to develop a campus on a nine-acre plot of nearby land along Adams Avenue, has been split between pragmatic support for a known entity and firm opposition for any more recovery programs in the neighborhood. To develop the property, the Bridge will need a variance from the city’s Zoning Board, which can be influenced by neighborhood group opinion.

The Bridge, which has been in Fox Chase for 40 years, is being forced to leave its current Fox Chase location due to circumstances beyond their control. Their current landlord, the Medical Mission Sisters have written a letter commending the facility, which is a subsidiary of Center City-based Public Health Management Corp.

Also at the meeting… The proprietor behind Little Guys & Gals daycare, an Adrianne Willis, at 5108 Torresdale Ave., where she also lives, sought civic support behind her request to get zoning approval to increase her capacity from six to 12 children, from infant to school-age adolescent. The board asked for specific square footage per child and pledged a zoning officer’s followup. Willis said she was state licensed and had required city paperwork. She said she had been in operation since January 2010, though an online notice references three 2009 inspections, all of which passed.

At a May 2 hearing, A district judge ruled in favor of a ‘611 action’ for the bar formerly known as T&T, where Frankford High School student Chris Spence was killed in February, announced West Frankford Town Watch President Mike Mawson. As explained at last month’s meeting by Jason Dawkins from Councilwoman Sanchez’s office, the 611 injunction would officially close the bar. Mawson did say that judge agreed to see a proposal for the bar’s current owners to sell the location and license to someone else.

Plans for an auto repair shop at 4109 Worrel Street, near Torresdale Avenue, to be led by a young entrepreneur, received board approval. One resident expressed concern that in the past the facility had been used for car painting and, because of poor ventilation, the smell affected neighbors. Civic President Brian Wisniewski said there would not be painting in the requested zoning.

The 15th police district is hosting a community day on May 14th from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Frankford Avenue and Ryan Street, just north of Cottman Avenue.

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