Heated WICA meeting covers zoning issues and business complaints

Arafha Abyzud

Arafha Abyzud

At an oft-heated monthly meeting, the Wissahickon Interested Citizens Association (WICA) covered several zoning issues pertinent to the neighborhood, while announcing an upcoming fundraiser and hearing from the owner of a business about whom several complaints have been lodged.

In the latter case, Arafha Abyzud — owner of AAA Auto Services, 5134 Rochelle Ave. — addressed the meeting Wednesday night in the wake of numerous complaints about the condition of his property.

Agencies contacted by WICA representatives included Philadelphia 311, the Philadelphia Fire Marshal, the Environmental Protection Agency, Fourth District Councilman Curtis Jones Jr. and Licenses and Inspections.

Cited with multiple violations, Abyzud and his wife questioned whether WICA’s response was a bit excessive.

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They cited the disrepaired and neglected condition of the property, formerly a filling station, at the time of purchase. They also assured WICA of their intentions to work through any issues concerning the property, and insisted on the good faith of their actions to date.

“If the existing violations are resolved and no longer an issue, then there is no problem,” said WICA President Jon Miller.

Zoning support

Attorney David Orphanides presented an application, also before the Zoning Board of Adjustment, on behalf of the owners of 5217 Ridge Ave.

Currently zoned for single-family occupancy, the owners are seeking a zoning variance allowing two-family occupancy in accordance with renovations.

Several members questioned whether supporting the variance will establish precedent for doing so in other cases. Orphanides assured them that a letter clearly distinguishing the unique factors of this particular case would limit the chances of such an interpretation.

The group agreed not to oppose the issuance of the variance and draft a letter clearly explaining its position.

Zoning friction

The Zoning Committee alerted the meeting to a Nov. 7 hearing concerning the property at 145 Kalos St. Again at issue was the single-family use classification.

However, in this case, several attendees felt as if WICA (which will send a representative to that ZBA meeting) was commandeering control of the zoning process.

Miller responded that “WICA does not make or enforce zoning rules,” and noted that only dues-paying members are permitted to vote at the meetings.

After a Robert’s Rules of Order discussion broke out, some questioned whether the group was freezing members of the general public out from a chance to speak.

After several more minutes of disruption, including vocally shared issues of dissatisfaction, multiple attendees left the room and did not return.

Upcoming events

WICA also announced that it, along with the Wissahickon Neighbors Association, will host a community gathering/fundraiser at Dawson Street Pub on Nov. 13.

Before the end of the meeting, state Rep. Pam DeLissio (D-194th) encouraged all attendees to vote on Election Day and noted that the deadline to request absentee ballots in Oct. 31. 

She also said a Town Hall meeting is scheduled for Nov. 18 at Roxborough Memorial Hospital’s Wolcoff Auditorium (5800 Ridge Ave.)

WICA, which holds monthly meetings the second Wednesday of each month at Northern Children’s Services, represents the area bounded by Wissahickon Valley Park, Ridge Avenue, Hermit Street and Henry Avenue.

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