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Should Lower Merion Limit 24/7 Businesses?

Commissioners discussed the issue at Wednesday's Building and Planning Committee meeting.

Prompted by LA Fitness's recent request to operate a 24/7 gym in the Wynnewood Shopping Center, Lower Merion commissioners began discussion Wednesday on whether to limit the operation of 24/7 businesses in the township.

"The township is often a leader in regulating and managing what happens in our community and I think this may be something that the board wants to very carefully but very seriously consider," said Board President Liz Rogan, who had asked that the matter be placed on the agenda.

The purpose of discussing the matter, Rogan said, was to determine if commissioners were interested in having staff research possible limitations on certain types of 24/7 businesses and eventually present to the board specific concepts for how to do so.

While very little case law exists related to limiting 24/7 operations in a township, Pennsylvania case law supports limitations on 24/7 businesses if the limitation is applied to an entire zoning district or township, Building and Planning Director Bob Duncan said.

Rogan suggested that logically, it may be possible to prohibit only those 24/7 businesses that are immediately abutting residential areas, a concern also voiced by the Federation of Civic Associations of Lower Merion and Narberth in a November resolution.

Noting the necessity of 24-hour pharmacies, "appropriately located" convenience stores and "appropriately situated" restaurants and supermarkets, the Federation stated that not all 24-hour businesses are appropriate, and said the township owed residents "a degree of protection" against activities including deliveries, car doors opening and shutting, music from outdoor loudspeakers, car lights and other disturbances.

There are few places in the township where the commercial area is not near a residence, Commissioner Brian McGuire noted.

“This is actually a hot topic out there in zoning land,” Commissioner Philip Rosenzweig said. “A lot of municipalities are struggling with this very issue. … I think it merits the study and the analysis."

Commissioner Cheryl Gelber agreed, saying that it shouldn't be up to civic associations to have to pay an attorney to research these issues—alluding to the LA Fitness hearing, in which Shortridge and Wynnewood Civic Associations hired attorney Ken Aaron to represent their interests, including a disagreement over hours of operation for the fitness center.

Current 24/7 businesses in Lower Merion include:

  • Planet Fitness in Ardmore
  • Wawa in Ardmore, Bryn Mawr and Belmont Hills
  • 7-11 in Bala Cynwyd and Bryn Mawr
  • CVS in Bala Cynwyd and in Ardmore

LA Fitness had requested the option to operate a 24/7 facility in Wynnewood, but eventually rescinded the 24-hour request following talks with neighboring civic associations, Zoning Officer Michael Wylie told Patch last week.

Should Lower Merion prohibit certain types of businesses from operating 24/7?  Should all 24/7 businesses be prohibited? Tell us in the comments.

Tim Rabbit January 11, 2013 at 01:57 AM
Any ordinance limiting hours would have reasonable exceptions for restaurants, convenience stores, pharmacies, bars, provided that they could show that they wouldn't disturb people in their homes who were trying to get a decent night's sleep. The problem now is that there are no limits, so that residents whose peace and quiet at night is likely to be infringed upon have to spend thousands of dollars fighting for what they thought they had as a matter of course when they purchased their homes or rented their apartments -- a place where they could retreat and find tranquility in the evening and over night. Right now the Giant in Wynnewood has to close at 10:00, by long standing agreement with the neighbors. A 24-hour operation with car doors slamming, loud conversations at 3:00 a.m. etc. would make more than a trivial difference to the neighbors. Certain streets in Bryn Mawr are plagued by drunken students emerging from bars at 2:00 a.m., singing and yelling at each other and getting into fights and throwing up -- not a very nice environment when you have to get up 4 hours later to get ready to go to work.
Adrian Seltzer January 11, 2013 at 03:13 AM
My son, a paramedic, who works night shift would be one of those people attracted by 24/7 businesses. What do you have against people in the health care, police, etc professions?
Tim Rabbit January 11, 2013 at 07:26 PM
11:00 p.m. Thanks for the correction. Wynnewood Superfresh is open to midnight, which as a shopper I sometimes find convenient. Not sure how the neighbors feel about it.
Richard Weisgrau January 12, 2013 at 04:46 AM
Linda, I expect I poorly stated my point in terms of my thoughts. I was not supporting interruption of residential neighborhoods by 24/7 businesses. My thought was that such businesses were unlikely to want to locate in residential areas. It would decrease access as well as the public image of the business. Additionally, I do think the Township would stop them from opening.
Richard Weisgrau January 12, 2013 at 04:51 AM
"Different element" – like nurses doctors, police, EMTs and other who work shift work. Your choice of words is peculiar and you fail to describe the "experience" that makes your point valid. Facts are better than opinions.

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