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Zoning bill would ban new medical offices in South Philadelphia

Several months ago, we discussed a Philadelphia City Council decision to restrict the number of doctors' offices in Northeast Philadelphia. The city's Planning Commission, which gives advisory reviews of proposed legislation, opposed the amendment to the zoning code, but the measure was passed.

Now a similar bill aims to prevent new medical offices from opening in a large part of South Philadelphia. It is widely assumed that the restrictions are meant to keep out methadone clinics, which many community members believe are bad for their neighborhoods. However, the chairman of the Planning Commission claims the restrictions on doctors' offices could have unforeseen negative consequences.

The chairman says that if similar zoning amendments are passed for districts throughout the city, then methadone clinics will essentially be banned, and the city could be hit with a federal lawsuit over an unconstitutional prohibition of use.

Council members in favor of the bills say that they allow for community members to have more of a say when a proposal goes before the zoning board. In fact, a business such as a medical office could get a zoning variance if the board approves one. Of course, neighbors can influence the board's decision.

However, the chairman of the Planning Commission claims that the zoning board's new approach to granting zoning variances requires proof of legitimate hardship on the part of the individual or business seeking a change.

A hearing on the zoning bill that would ban new medical offices in South Philadelphia is set for Feb. 12.

If you would like to learn more about zoning, variances and commercial use, our real estate website is a good resource.

Source: Plan Philly, "Planning Commission says no to medical office bans, yes to LOVE Park garage transfer," Jared Brey, Jan. 28, 2014

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