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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.

michael January 10, 2013 at 11:29 AM
i think the people running this town are more concerned about being in control than actually doing anything -
Berwyn Bro January 10, 2013 at 02:08 PM
24 hour stores benefit those who work while we sleep (police, fire, "the bread man"). There is a consumer for the nighttime traffic, and in the ever-changing world we live in, people are becoming more and more nocturnal. Have you ever driven by Planet Fitness around 10pm and see how many people are just starting their workouts! Fitness aside, the 24 hour Wawa's are simply amazing.
jeff dobkin January 10, 2013 at 04:13 PM
It's amazing the amount of government and legislature concern for a law about a very few businesses opening 24-hours, considering Lower Merion Schools cost over one hundred and twenty four million dollars and they still aren't finished.
Richard Weisgrau January 10, 2013 at 04:26 PM
The regulation of 24/7 businesses would in most cases be an infringement on the business owners' rights. However, there might be circumstances when such regulation would be valid on the basis if the greater good. 24/7 business operations in commercial environments like the businesses cited in this article do not impinge on the tranquility of residential areas. I think that should be a key element in any regulation. Frankly, I don't think many businesses wanting to go 24/7 are likely to be in a place to disturb local residents' nights.
Linda Sherman January 10, 2013 at 05:43 PM
Think again. Would you want to live near bright lights going 24/7? Would you want the type of traffic and personnel, from everywhere, coming to your neighborhood 24/7? Would you appreciate the noise when your windows are open? Would you want the trash that all people make on a 24/7 basis? And property values of homes located near these businesses go down considerably. I support the township commissioners in their quest to find appropriate 24/7 locations for business. Like I indicated...think again.
Berwyn Bro January 10, 2013 at 07:55 PM
@LindaSherman The area in question, The Wynnewood Shopping Center, has been there for close to a decade and traffic/people have occupied homes in the area since then just fine. Folks who live on Clover Hill, Cedar Grove, etc, have been experiencing the same amount of people in their hood. Sure, Borders wasn't open 24/7, but the people and problems you listed were just as apparent then, as they would be in the future. I will assure you that you will not hear feet pounding a treadmill from inside your home.
Linda Sherman January 10, 2013 at 08:01 PM
Bradford, how do you know? Your comment is ludicrious. We are not talking about amount of people or treadmill noise. That is ridiculous. I know from experience that a different element is attracted to a 24/7 operation. I believe you do not know much about what you write.
Eula January 10, 2013 at 08:45 PM
I also agree. Just how many businesses are interested in operating 24/7? The tiny percentage of those interested are not likely to over run LM. The fact that this was even considered tells me that those in charge are more interested in control than actually doing anything.
Christopher Hart January 10, 2013 at 11:55 PM
I think the Wawa and 7-11 in Bryn Mawr are both in Radnor Township anyway.
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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