Tuesday, September 7, 2010
Ted Stones never thought he'd wake up to a prison in his backyard, but after the Zoning Board appeal denial it's a reality. In the fall of last year developers Frank Bruno and Stan Smith applied to rezone a light industrial lot within a residential neighborhood of Germantown.
Originally the Zoning Board had denied the developers in June 2009 but after the Wister Neighborhood Advisory Committee had sent their letter of support to the Zoning board in Nov. 2009 the zoning request was approved.
The property, 4969 Wakefield St. had been a factory, then electronics business. After being abandoned for a number of years the developers bought it and applied to rezone the property so it could house a private penal facility according to court records.
But this was not what Stones says the developers told the community at the Wister Neighborhood Advisory Committee Meeting.
"We were told in the beginning that it wasn't a prison but the actual paperwork from the Zoning Board describes it as a private penal facility, and the neighborhood is against it."
Stones says he has over 200 signatures for a petition against the facility. Denise Chiods, of Wakefield Street, says she signed that petition and doesn't think that it is a good idea to have women who would otherwise be incarcerated living so close to a playground and on a block with a lot of kids running around.
It's also against the city of Philadelphia zoning code to have a private penal facility within 500 feet of a public playground and residential homes. This new decision by the Zoning Board would put this facility within feet of many backyards and within 500 feet from the Wister public playground.
New Directions for Women, the non-profit proposed to move into the Wakefield Street lot describes on their website to be a way to "alleviate and reduce prison overcrowding" and "re-socialize and transition women back into the community".
Stones contests that he is the block captain and has lived on Bayton Street for 25 years and neither he nor other neighbors have ever heard of this non-profit before the proposed move.
Karen Arthur, a 35-year resident of Bayton Street also signed the petition. She says that her neighborhood already houses a domestic violence center, several drug rehab centers and a halfway house just up the street. Arthur says that she is tired of her neighborhood being a dumping ground,
"The State and city government need to realize that the citizens need to be asked what facilities should be in the middle of their block before they pass it through. We don't live in a secret society, everything should be open and there is no reason in the world that we were not told that they even had this in mind. Then it's like boom, it's right here on us."
Stones plans to keep appealing the Zoning Board decision and has started a new Neighborhood Advisory Committee for the Wister Playground.
By Kristen Mosbrucker and Josh Fernandez
Posted by Kristen Mos at 8:41 PM