Mayor Nutter vetoed a bill Thursday that critics said would make it harder for medical and dental practices to locate in two Northeast Philadelphia Council districts.

City Council quickly overturned the veto by a 16-1 margin, but Councilman Mark Squilla introduced a virtually identical bill to apply the same restrictions in his district.

Squilla predicted that many of his colleagues would follow suit in the coming weeks.

The original bill, sponsored by Council members Brian J. O'Neill and Bobby Henon and passed unanimously last month, requires new medical practices to seek a zoning variance and community input before locating in their Northeast districts.

The bill grew out of a long-running neighborhood court battle to keep a methadone clinic from opening on Frankford Avenue in Holmesburg.

The sponsors, though, said the bill was meant to address a much broader range of issues with medical practices.

Squilla, whose district stretches along the Delaware River from South Philadelphia to Port Richmond, said he recently contended with a mental health practice he said was issuing pain prescriptions for cash, often drawing a line of people out the door.

"At this point, we don't have any other avenue other than to make these people seek a variance," Squilla said. "We just want the community to have a say."

Nutter, however, said the original bill carved out two districts "where the evolution toward a better, healthier society will face an undue hurdle."

He said the bill sent the message that medical and dental practices were not welcome in those areas, discouraging doctors and dentists from starting or expanding businesses there.

The mayor also said problems with individual practices should be dealt with "using precise and generally-applicable rules," and that zoning should address specific needs of individual neighborhoods.

"Zoning by Council district ignores this foundational principle of sound urban planning," he wrote in his veto message.

O'Neill said last month that his disctict had an abundance of small doctor's offices and he doubted reputable practices would have trouble getting a variance to open or expand.

Squilla also said Thursday that if Nutter wanted to propose a better solution to address more undesirable practices then he was "all ears."

 

215-854-2730

@troyjgraham