EAST FALLS >> The KenCrest Community Home located in East Falls is seeking a zoning variance to alter the community its serves from adults to children, a request that is causing dispute among neighbors in the area.

The East Falls-based facility has been in service for over 10 years as an adult day care, serving patients only during traditional business hours. However, the organization recently proposed a change that would turn the facility into a transitional home for sick children, making the business one that operates all day and night.

Because the organization will be residential in nature if approved, the City of Philadelphia classifies the new use as a hospital. It is this classification that has caused concern for nearby neighbors.

Specifically, members of the East Falls Community Council are concerned the new use at KenCrest will lead to increased traffic, decreased parking space and potentially increased noise during the day and night as patients are transported to and from the residential community.

Bill Epstein, the current president of the EFCC, explained the community became involved when the city’s Licenses and Inspections Department refused the permit on the grounds that the new facility use fell into a hospital classification. This change would require a variance, to be voted on by community organizations.

After discussing various concerns relating to traffic, parking, noise and trash, members of the EFCC voted in opposition to the proposed variance.

“The near neighbors are concerned that the changing use of the facility will create more traffic and noise,” said Epstein, explaining many members of the organization are concerned any changes to the current facility use would be intrusive for neighboring residents.

Epstein explained while the EFCC’s zoning committee recommended that the EFCC take no position on the variance, due to a difference of opinion among organization members, “the general membership overrode that and voted to take a position of opposition.”

While the EFCC ultimately voted against the new use, though, another local community organization, East Falls Forward, voted to approve the variance.

“We’ve been a little puzzled as to what the reason for the backlash is,” said Steve Fillmore, president of EFF.

Fillmore explained while he and other members of EFF are aware that the city is technically classifying the new use as a hospital, that change is only due to a lack of language to describe the actual proposed use for the facility.

“The neighbors seem to have seized on the term ‘hospital.’ [The Licenses and Inspections Department] doesn’t have a code for ‘medical home for children,’ and due to this limitation in the guidelines, they simply marked it as a hospital,” he said.

Fillmore went on to say he’d personally visited the KenCrest location across from Gorgas Park in Roxborough, which currently serves as a residential home.

“I looked around it, and I didn’t see any indication that there’s any difficulty with neighbors. I contacted the Roxborough Civic Association and the Friends of Gorgas [Park], and … they both said that KenCrest has been a perfect neighbor. They’ve had no issues with them,” he said, explaining he and other members of EFF see no reason to oppose the variance.

The proposed use will now have to go before the Philadelphia Zoning Board of Adjustment for approval. As of press time, a hearing before the board had not been posted on the ZBA’s website.

KenCrest operates several locations throughout Pennsylvania, Delaware and Connecticut, with five locations in the Philadelphia area. The East Falls location, for which the variance is being sought, is located at 3132 Midvale Ave.

Representatives for KenCrest did not respond to requests for comment by press time.

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