Marty Cabry of Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell’s office advises residents after the ZBA meeting today. The residents live near the storefront at 4533 Baltimore Ave., where a Subway restaurant is proposed.
The city Zoning Board of Adjustment (ZBA) today postponed a decision on granting a takeout certificate to a proposed Subway at 4533 Baltimore Avenue to give the Garden Court Community Association, which borders the store’s location, a chance to review the proposal.
Several people who live near the storefront where the Subway is proposed attended the meeting at 1515 Arch St. and expressed concern about the increased traffic that would likely accompany the sandwich shop. Residents were led by Wilhelmina Herbert, president of the Garden Court Community Association, who lives nearby on S. 46th Street. She and other residents were concerned about the likelihood of increased traffic – from both customers as well as delivery and garbage trucks – along an alley that borders the rear of the store where neighborhood children often play.
“My issue is there is no parking,” Herbert told the ZBA.
Other residents – about 20 in all – accompanied Herbert to the meeting. Many in attendance live on the west side of the 500 block of S. Melville and said they were not informed about a zoning meeting on the Subway proposal at the Spruce Hill Community Association (SHCA) earlier this month.
“Not one person from the 500 block of S. Melville was aware of [the meeting],” said Herbert.
The Spruce Hill Community Association today approved Subway’s application for a takeout certificate, which is required of all businesses that serve food, with stipulations that include the building a 6-foot high fence in back of the storefront to enclose the restaurant’s dumpster. The storefront, which is about 1,000 square feet, has the proper zoning and only the take-out certificate, which is usually a routine matter, is all that is needed for the business to open.
Much of the opposition at the Spruce Hill meeting was leveled at Subway because it was a chain, according to Barry Grossbach, who oversees zoning issues for the SHCA. A letter released a few hours before today’s meeting laid out the Association’s position (it is available in full below). In it, the SHCA zoning committee writes that the committee has no legal standing to reject the application simply because Subway is a chain.
“Spruce Hill has no authority to declare a corporate operator off limits no matter the feelings of individual committee members,” the letter states. “There is no stated policy about chain operators on Spruce Hill’s commercial corridors.”
The SHCA position includes stipulations about Subway’s use of the rear alley, lighting, painting and “general aesthetics.”
But nearby residents fear, once open, that Subway will not be able to control the traffic in the alley.
Ronald Patterson, the attorney representing Subway, tried to persuade Herbert to admit that the community opposition was really because Subway would be the first franchise restaurant on that part of Baltimore Avenue.
“You want to create a commercial avenue, this is what you get – you get higher-end tenants,” he said.
Herbet responded that she had “nothing against Subway.”
The Garden Court Community Association will have a meeting on the Subway proposal likely during the second week of January (the exact date is forthcoming). In the meantime, concerned residents can direct their concerns to the chair of the Zoning Board of Adjustments:
Chair, City of Philadelphia Zoning Board of Adjustment
1401 John F. Kennedy Blvd. 11th Fl.
Philadelphia, PA 19102
The Spruce Hill Community Association position (pdf) SUBWAY ON BALTIMORE AVENUE