Councilman proposes zoning change that could delay safe injection site indefinitely

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Philadelphia City Councilman Mark Squilla has introduced legislation that could put a crimp in plans for a safe injection site in Kensington. 

Squilla proposed earlier this week to change the zoning for the 1800 block of Hilton Street from mixed-use to strictly residential. Not coincidentally, that is the location offered to the nonprofit Safehouse for a safe injection site. 

Changing the zoning, he said, will give neighbors some say if a variance is later requested.

"The community feels like if they are going to make some changes to that area, they should have input in what those uses are," he added.

A trip to see a safe injection site in Toronto two weeks ago, however, convinced Squilla that the idea would not work in Philadelphia.

"I was very open-minded going there and then after seeing it, enlightened me to say this is not an operation that works," he said. "It's not something that could save lives. It's not something that could help people go into treatment."

Ironically, the trip was organized by Safehouse to sell Squilla on the idea. Officials say they thought it demonstrated the opposite of Squilla's conclusion. 

Board member Ed Rendell said it will bring relief to the neighborhood from the outdoor drug use, overdoses and littering.

"All that will be moved inside where it's not visible to children or passers-by," noted Rendell, who said he will continue to work to get the site approved.