Philadelphia zoning board denies methadone clinic for northeast neighborhood

The Philadelphia Zoning Board has denied a variance for a proposed methadone clinic in Northeast Philadelphia.  The dispute highlights how difficult it can be to place one of these centers to treat heroin addicts.

The fight began last year, when residents in the Holmesburg neighborhood found out some medical offices on Frankford Avenue were going to be used for a methadone clinic.  Up to 700 patients could visit each day.

Dominic Paris owns a commercial property down the street and testified at a zoning hearing the clinic would hurt the neighborhood.

“Property values are going to go down hugely people aren’t going to be able to sell their house next to a medical facility that dispenses methadone because that kind of clientele is something that is not going to look good for you as an individual or homeowner,” said Paris.

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Attorney Phil McFillin represents residents opposed to the clinic.

“We’re not saying these are not good uses,” said McFillin “that they should not be permitted in the city of Philadelphia we just think they need to be properly classified under the zoning code in a suitable area of the city and we don’t believe that across from a daycare center in a primarily residential area is a suitable location.”

The zoning board ruled that a drug treatment facility can’t use buildings zoned for regular medical offices, but the matter isn’t over.  Attorney Carl Primavera says the clinic’s owners will fight the decision in court.

“In an enlightened world you would say treatment is good and these are people who are trying to take care of their problem, but it’s better not to have the problem in your face, in your neighborhood,” said Primavera.  “The problem is if nobody has facilities that are needed and nobody has access to treatment, the problem is not being solved.”

Primavera says the “not in my backyard” attitude and the zoning commission ruling amount to discrimination against those trying to kick their addiction.

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