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Council overrides Nutter veto on medical offices bill

New doctors and dentists offices in Northeast Philly will need zoning variances.

CITY COUNCIL yesterday voted 16-1 to override Mayor Nutter's veto of a bill that would require new doctors, dentists and medical offices to get zoning variances before opening in much of Northeast Philly.

Councilmen Brian O'Neill and Bobby Henon championed the measure, which they say would give neighborhoods more input on development. Critics claimed it was a veiled attempt to keep methadone clinics out of their districts.

"This bill effectively bans the establishment or expansion of medical, dental or other health practices . . . in these districts," Nutter wrote in his veto letter. "At a time when access to health care should be expanding for all Americans, this bill carves out two Councilmanic districts where that evolution toward a better, healthier society will face an undue hurdle."

The city Planning Commission had previously recommended rejection of the measure.

Henon said yesterday that he was "not surprised" by Nutter's veto.

"He certainly has that executive prerogative to veto anything that he is not in agreement with, so I'm glad other Council members respected some of the concerns . . . with medical facilities and giving the power back to the community," Henon said.

The Daily News on Wednesday published a cover story about an effort by Henon and state Rep. Kevin Boyle to keep a methadone clinic out of Holmesburg.

Councilman Bill Green, who voted for the measure when it initially passed Council, changed his mind and was the lone dissenter in the override vote.

Green said he still doesn't object to the variance requirement, but ended up voting against the bill because it only applies to two districts.

"I don't disagree with the public policy at all," Green said. "We should either apply the correct zoning or change the code on a citywide basis. I want that to be a touchstone for me going forward with the zoning issues that are going to come up."