Councilman Brian O’Neill introduced a bill on Thursday creating a “Northeast Zoning Overlay,” which would prohibit certain medical uses in many zoning districts throughout Northeast Philadelphia, in areas where they are currently allowed by right or by special exception. The overlay would cover both O'Neill's 10th District and the 6th District, represented by Councilman Bobby Henon.
The bill bans the Medical, Dental and Health Practitioner use category in all commercial mixeNOrthed-use (CMX) districts, the CA-1 and CA-2 auto-oriented commercial districts, and the IRMX, ICMX, I-1 and I-2 industrial districts. The uses are already banned in most residential districts. If the overlay were to pass, the uses could only be established by right in I-3 heavy industrial and RMX-3 residential mixed-use districts.
The category, which is split into sole and group practice, is defined as: “Office uses related to diagnosis and treatment of human patients’ illnesses, injuries, and physical malfunctions that can be performed in an office setting with no overnight care. Surgical, rehabilitation, and other medical centers that do not involve overnight patient stays are included in this subcategory, as are medical and dental laboratories, unless otherwise indicated.”
The bill may have been aimed at preventing the by-right development of methadone clinics, facilities that provide treatment to heroin addicts. Methadone clinics fall under the medical use category, and they are not defined separately in the zoning code. Proposals for new clinics almost always draw protest from some members of the surrounding communities. O’Neill’s bill would force zoning hearings for all new methadone clinics, and other medical uses like doctors’ offices, in Northeast Philadelphia.
Councilman Kenyatta Johnson, who represents the 2nd District in Southwest Philadelphia, also introduced a bill on Thursday that would prohibit vehicle-related uses, except for gas stations, in industrial commercial mixed-use districts throughout the city. Councilman Bill Greenlee introduced a bill on behalf of Council President Darrell Clarke that extends for three years certain regulations for a part of the North Central Philadelphia Overlay which were set to expire at the end of this year. The regulations, which can be found in 14-506(2)(c) of the zoning code, cover the block surrounded by Cecil B. Moore Ave., Montgomery Ave., 11th St. and 12th St., which is being partially developed into student housing.
Jared Brey is a freelance reporter based in Philadelphia. His work has been featured in Philadelphia magazine, Hidden City, The Philadelphia Inquirer, City & State, and other publications. He covered development, zoning policy, historic preservation, and city government for PlanPhilly from 2011-2016.