This is the first in a two-part look at zoning in the Northeast. Read the second part here.
There are 10 day cares on the three city blocks of Rising Sun Avenue between Robbins and Fanshawe streets. My Little Doves by Hellerman Street is the newest addition.
Many residents said they are angry about their zoning board’s approval over the site.
“Someone needs to decide when enough’s enough. We’re going overboard now,” said Lawncrest resident Cherylann Wharton.
Residents said they were left out of the decision. Their concerns about the day care were made clear at the April 19 Lawncrest Community Association meeting: they don’t want any more traffic.
“Our problem is we were all by ourselves and no one stood behind us. We went to the zoning hearing and they still approved it,” resident John Perillo said.
As the minutes from the previous meeting were being read, Perillo had a problem with what was said. The minutes said the day care on Rising Sun Avenue was discussed. Perillo said it wouldn’t have even been mentioned if the residents who saw an orange sign posted on the building announcing the zoning hearing had not brought the issue up.
“It’s not fair. The committee toured that building, they knew what the plan was and not one person on that block knew what the plan was and that’s not fair.” Perillo said.
Hellerman Street is a one way, which Perillo said already has a problem with parking. His neighbors said they fear this problem will become even worse when the day care opens.
“I think there’s just a feeling that the people on the 400-block of Hellerman St. were left out of this,” Wharton said. “It just seemed like it got rushed through awfully fast. I barely found out about it and before I knew it there’s a sign saying there’s going to be a hearing.”
Wharton learned about the day care five days before the hearing.
Board member of the Lawncrest Community Association Phil Grutzmacher said the association thinka someone paid for an accelerated hearing, which is why everything happened so quickly.
“It would be nice if the neighbors on any given situation would have a little more consideration when a new zoning situation comes up,” Wharton said. “Have the people who want to put in any given business come to the meeting first and talk to us. You’ve done it before.”
Grutzmacher said when the community association has time it will do that, but when it doesn’t have time zoning issues are not discussed.
“We’ve never had a day care opposed on the avenue before,” Grutzmacher said.
Wharton said the neighbors should have been given more consideration.
“It’s a day care. They didn’t think anyone would mind. Maybe you shouldn’t assume,” Wharton said.
Wharton said she’s anticipating the worse for when the day care opens.
“If there’s a demand in the community they’re gonna open more day cares and there’s a demand,” Grutzmacher said. “There are a lot of kids in the community.”
Perillo disagreed with Grutzmacher. He said he spoke with some of the day cares on the avenue and two of the biggest day cares said they were only 75 percent full.
“Primarily I’m concerned about the traffic situation. At certain times of the day the streets have a tendency to get backed up a bit and if you add 25 new cars it’s going to get very bad around here,” Wharton said.
In addition to the parking, increased traffic on Hellerman St. and the quantity of day cares on the avenue already, the neighbors also had a problem with the hours of operation. The day care was originally to operate from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. It will now close at 7 p.m.
Residents also were concerned with the increased amount of trash that will be produced. The day care has agreed to store all trash in the basement until pickup day.
“You’re right, we’re mad cause we lost and there’s nothing we can do about it now, but I want to propose something. If someone wants to put something on the end of the block and they meet with the civic association and goes over the plan, knock on a few of the neighbors’ doors and get their feelings about it before you present anything to the zoning hearing,” Perillo said. “The neighbors should have a say, that’s all I’m saying. We believe we were denied our say.”
Grutzmacher said in the future when neighbors see the orange signs on buildings they should let the association know as soon as possible.
“Sometimes that’s the only notice we get,” Grutzmacher said. “Time is of the essence. We get two weeks’ notice before a hearing and there’s a lot to do. You have to talk to the applicant and talk to neighbors and that’s hard to do in 10 days. The sooner you tell us the better chance we have to do this.”
Venzina Hicks, the owner of My Little Doves day care, said she did have some support from the community. She sent a petition around to the community and businesses for her to open another day care.
Hicks said those issues, such as the parking, would have been a problem no matter what type of business decided to open in that space.
“I agreed and applied for a parking zone for Hellerman Street in order to work with the community and I agreed to change my hours,” Hicks said. “I am trying to work with the community and do whatever I can to help them.”
Megan Paolini and Ian Romano are students reporting for Philadelphia Neighborhoods, the publication of Temple University’s Multimedia Urban Reporting Lab.
This article has been clarified with the most recent number of daycares in three-block span.