ANOTHER OPPONENT of a project proposed by developer Ori Feibush has come forward to say that he was threatened with a lawsuit before he planned to speak out in opposition at a zoning hearing.
The Daily News reported yesterday that an attorney for Feibush sent a letter threatening to sue a Point Breeze resident for allegedly "spreading falsehoods" about him.
Earlier this year, Spring Garden resident Christopher Leary appealed Feibush's zoning permit for OCF Coffee House, which had replaced Mugshots Coffee House and Juice Bar on Fairmount Avenue near 21st Street. Leary argued that zoning prohibited cooking on the premises without a variance.
Leary's attorney Joseph Beller received a letter from lawyer Vern Anastasio on behalf of Feibush in February, a week before a scheduled Zoning Board of Adjustment hearing.
"In light of your client's persistence in attempting to recklessly interfere with my client's business, I suggest that you advise your client to withdraw this baseless appeal," the letter reads. "I respectfully advise you to put your carrier on notice, as I will advise my client to sue you personally, as well as your client."
The zoning-permit appeal was defeated, and Leary opted against taking the matter to court.
Feibush did not return calls for comment on this case.
Meanwhile, Point Breeze residents packed yesterday's heated ZBA hearing about Feibush's proposal to build four large single-family, three-story houses on 20th Street near Annin, including one for himself. (The area is zoned for three homes.)
Annin Street resident Haley Dervinis testified against the project a day after receiving a letter from Feibush's attorney, threatening to sue her for libel and slander for what he described as "defamatory" comments she made on blogs.
"I could be sued by what I say at this hearing. I'm very nervous," she said, before noting that she and other residents on the block oppose the project because they feared it could create congestion, limit parking, alter the block's character and cause property taxes to rise.
South Philadelphia Homes Inc., the local registered community organization, initially supported the project with a majority vote in favor, but group president Claudia Sherrod issued a letter in opposition Tuesday.
She said 98 percent of residents on the block oppose it and that the zoning matter has become a personal issue "that has blown out of proportion."
Sherrod said later that she was shocked to learn of Feibush's threat to sue Dervinis. "You cannot attack people personally to get what you want," she said.
Block captain Yvonne Lott said neighbors agreed to raise money if Dervinis eventually needs a lawyer. "When you condemn one, you condemn all," she said.
Steve Cobb, Councilman Kenyatta Johnson's legislative aide, said Johnson - whose district includes Point Breeze - opposes the project after failed attempts to reach out to Feibush regarding residents' concerns.
The Planning Commission was also against the proposed zoning change.
The ZBA did not vote on the matter yesterday. Chairwoman Julia Chapman said the board needed time to discuss it and could make a decision as early as Tuesday.
Feibush declined to comment after the hearing.