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Hospital’s plan for methadone clinic takes a hit from neighbors p2

3/28/2014 | Real Estate Blog

The East Kensington Neighbors Association strongly objects to Kensington Hospital’s plan to open a methadone clinic in an abandoned building at the corner of Front and Diamond streets. The neighborhood group has taken its argument to Philadelphia’s Zoning Board of Adjustment; the board had granted the project a variance, and EKNA says the board should not have granted the hospital’s request.

As we said in our last post, the city’s zoning code is complicated. This is a city full of historic landmarks, narrow streets and, sadly, deteriorating neighborhoods. Most cities’ zoning codes have been cobbled together over decades, and, in spite of efforts to clean up confusing language and overly complicated rules and exceptions, Philly is not much different.

One confusing area of the city’s code relates to how applicants for variances and exceptions frame their arguments to the board, how applicants convince the board that either no one will suffer any harm from the change or that the applicant will suffer severe harm if the requested change is not approved. The neighborhood group believes that the hospital did not meet the legal requirements for its request.

A special exception is different from a variance. The applicant must support its request for the former with evidence that the change in use would not harm the neighborhood. Among the specific types of harm are overcrowding, congestion and stretching public services too thin — a list that may ring a bell for readers of our March 17 post. Once the applicant has made its case, it is up to opponents to show that there will be harm, specifically “a detrimental impact on the health, safety and welfare” that would be greater than the usual risks associated with the proposed use.

For a variance, that formula is turned on its head. We’ll explain how in our next post.

Source:, “Neighbors act to block Kensington methadone clinic,” Jared Brey (PlanPhilly), March 17, 2014