In West Philly, the opinion of one neighborhood organization has trumped the voice of another. The ZBA recently reversed its decision to reject a Subway franchise at 4533 Baltimore Ave.

Yes Subway?

The reversal occurred after the applicants asked the Spruce Hill Community Association to write a letter of reconsideration to the ZBA. Weeks later, the Garden Court Community Association, whose members showed up at the zoning hearing to express their concerns, mainly that the sandwich shop would bring illegal traffic down the alley that abuts its exterior, received a letter informing them about the reversal. Despite their grievances, the Subway would be granted a take-out license.

“We’re very upset with it,” says GCNA past president Mary Allegra. “We’re consulting a lawyer.”

Commercial corridor

Allegra suggests that none of the individuals who attended the zoning hearing were informed that the applicants requested reconsideration from the ZBA. Jannie Blackwell’s office was also not informed.

Spruce Hill zoning chair Barry Grossbach, who initially penned a letter of support for Subway, penned another letter when applicants asked him to write to the ZBA and ask for reconsideration.

“It is a storefront that is currently vacant and we’ve worked for 15 years to make Baltimore Avenue a viable corridor,” says Grossbach. “We’ve had three failed businesses at that location.”

The last was Pickles and Pies.

Grossbach says “no matter how you slice the cake [that location, 4533 Baltimore Ave.] is part of a commercial corridor.” Whether a retailer is part of a larger chain or is an independent owner matters little, according to Grossbach. The issue is the location is zoned for commercial use and little more. He says he wrote the reconsideration letter because SHCA initially approved the project.

We confess that we’re not completely familiar with the intricacies of the neighborhood politics in play here, but it seems that one neighborhood organization (SHCA) is trying to get its way at an address that also sits within the boundaries of another group (GCCA). Or are the borders between the groups a little fuzzy when this block of Baltimore Ave. is concerned? West Philly folks, can you clarify for us?

Nevertheless, it appears as though another page has been written in the tale of the Baltimore Avenue Five-Dollar-Footlongs. And we suspect that this book still has some pages yet to come.

–Lou Mancinelli