Nuisance businesses and commercial blight can be a real problem in cities.
Here, we are going to look at one example of a business currently operating unchecked by the City of Philadelphia, with no regard for the rules and regulations put into place to protect the community.
Tires & Service at 4800 Germantown Avenue
At 4800 Germantown Avenue, between W Wyneva Street and W Rockland Street, sits a 18,584 square foot auto service shop and tire reseller called Tires & Service. Residents have become increasingly concerned about the risk and danger of tire storage sites in the largely residential neighborhood of Germantown. The amount of tires stored at the shop grows each day, increasing from a few hundred to well over a thousand in a matter of months. When the business in question turns out to be operating illegally, concerns are only magnified. The tire shop has tire piles just five feet away from the first house on W Rockland Street and ten feet away from the first house on Wyneva Street.
The big fear is that a long-burning tire fire could destroy homes on nearby blocks.
Click to enlarge. View more photos on Flickr
Many Philadelphians still remember the great eight-alarm tire fire of 1996 that compromised the structural integrity of I-95, caused the Health Department to issue air quality advisories, injured two firefighters and slowed commuter traffic for weeks. The fire started in an illegal tire yard underneath the highway and caused over 6 million dollars in damage. (Side note: Larry! Stephanie!)
Secondary issues raised by neighbors include the likelihood of a mosquito infestation in the summer months and the unsightly condition of the property. There are lots of other problems with Tires & Services, of course:
- According to the Licensing & Inspections website, all business operating licenses for the property are expired (all licenses listed were for previous businesses over the years, not the current shop, Tires & Service)
- The business does not have an Auto Wrecking Yard / Tire Storage License [detail]
- The business does not have a Commercial Activities License [detail]
- Tires vertically stacked over 15 high in heaps are collecting water, within 5 feet of nearby homes
- The business did not shovel snow all winter along the perimeters of the property on W Rockland Street, Germantown Avenue or Wyneva Street
- Initially, the business was not open at all hours, but after just a few months, signs were installed advertising 24-hours a day, 7-days a week services; no notice was given to nearby residents
Zoning and ownership
4800 Germantown Avenue is zoned CMX25 Commercial / Commercial Mixed-Use and listed as an Auto Repair Shop.
Tires & Services are renting the property. The owners of 4800 Germantown Avenue were found using Philadelinquency.com’s genius property search feature:
Judith Gabbay et al
1314 Chestnut Street, 10th Floor
Philadelphia PA 19107
4800 Germantown Avenue, which has been occupied by several different businesses over the years, has a long history of Licensing & Inspections violations.
What’s the 311?
Many neighbors have mentioned that they have called the City’s Philly 311 hotline by phone about problems at Tires & Services.
Digging into public Philly311 records, one online complaint was submitted 8 months ago (August 12, 2013: Tires! Mosquitos! Dog Feces! Trash!). The report raised several issues, from mosquito problems to the abundance of tires and dog feces. Licensing & Inspections visited Tires & Service and closed the ticket with the conclusion that the complaint was unfounded.
Here is where we have a problem. Too many 311 complaints get the “Service Request Completed / Unfounded” tag to the bewilderment of the citizen reporter, leaving problems to persist and neighbors unsure of how to follow up.
A new 311 request was submitted for this business on April 16, 2014. The ticket number is 342740.
As it stands, Tires & Service is still a mess. It’s time for Licensing & Inspections to call a supervisor because another unfounded 311 ticket designation isn’t going to cut it.
Click to enlarge. View more photos on Flickr
A few good rules and regulations…
For City officials and neighborhood advocates, included below are a list of rules and regulations surrounding this type of operation. No Philadelphia citizen should be required to have to figure this out in order to address a neighborhood problem.
The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection
According to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection Bureau of Waste Management Inspection Report on Residual Waste Tire Storage Facilities, there are dozens of requirements that prevent Tires & Service from operating their facility.
Here are a few line items from the DEP inspection checklist Tires & Service do not meet or are violating, which anyone can see in plain sight:
- Surface area of outdoor tire pile is not greater than 2,500 square feet.
- Within 300 feet from an occupied dwelling, unless the owner thereof has provided a written waiver consenting to the activities.
- Within 50 feet of a property line unless the owner has provided a written waiver consenting to the facility being closer than 50 feet.
- Vertical height of outdoor tire pile is not greater than 15 feet.
- Corridors or firebreaks on all sides of outdoor tire pile of at least 50 feet.
- Firebreaks for outdoor tire piles are free of waste, equipment and structures.
- Outdoor storage of waste tires conducted to control mosquito propagation.
- Preparedness, Prevention and Contingency (PPC) for outdoor storage plan prepared and maintained at the waste tire storage facility and be updated annually.