The Springfield Township Zoning Hearing Board is scheduled Monday to hear a homeowner’s appeal of a January zoning violation for operating a business inside a residential district.
The Springfield Township Zoning Hearing Board is scheduled Monday to hear a homeowner’s appeal of a January zoning violation for operating a business inside a residential district – a home that belongs to none other than a woman who’s been dubbed the ‘Queen of Cannabis’ by the Philadelphia Inquirer: Christine Visco, founder and president of TerraVida Holistic Centers, a chain of medical marijuana stores based in the Philadelphia suburbs.
The current situation – with neighbors now having launched a website dedicated to their concern and buying an ad in this newspaper urging people to attend the zoning hearing – began with a parking dispute.
About a year and a half ago, neighbors told the Local, cars started appearing in front of Visco’s home on the 600 block of East Gravers Lane in Wyndmoor, which they said created an unsafe situation for pedestrians. They now had to walk in the middle of the street, which has no sidewalks, to maneuver around the cars, they said.
The parked cars spilled past the driveway of Visco’s next-door neighbor, Leslie Purple, blocking Purple’s visibility when she tried to pull her car out of her driveway.
“We’re concerned mostly for the safety of our neighbors because we don’t have sidewalks,” said Purple, who was the only neighbor willing to speak on the record. “You don’t own the road, you share the road.”
Eventually, Purple and other neighbors on the block began to look closer at the people who were going to and from the cars parked on the street. They would arrive around 9 a.m. and leave around 5 p.m., Purple said. They also would carry items like laptops, papers and coffee mugs with them – “things you typically take to work,” she said.
The neighbors then Googled the employees of Visco’s company, TerraVida, and found their pictures online. Their headshots matched the people coming from the cars, they said – leading them to the conclusion that Visco was running a business out of her home.
Compounding neighbors’ concerns is the fact that Visco, who has said she has stage four breast cancer, has not been polite.
“My cars will always be parked on the street,” she said in an email to neighbors who forwarded the correspondence to the Local. “[Y]ou’re entitled, and I don’t care how entitled or how much money you have, you can never prevent me from parking those cars on the street. What you’re doing is inciting me to make sure that there is no Peace.”
In the email, Visco, who lives with her husband Jeff Redding, denies running a business out of her home.
“I don’t run a business,” she wrote. “It’s illegal for me to run a business so you guys are poking the bear when this goes all the way to the Supreme Court.”
Visco’s lawyer, Daniel Rivlin, said that in reality, there is no zoning controversy. Instead, it's just a case of neighbors being upset about who their new neighbor is, and the nature of her business.
“Since Ms. Visco and her husband, Mr. Redding, moved to (that block of East Gravers Lane), their neighbors have been unhappy that someone who has owned and continues to legally own interests in cannabis-related entities moved in,” said Rivlin in an email.
Purple says she has no problem with what Visco does for a living.
“I applaud a female-run company,” she said. “I think she’s done a remarkable amount of work, and I don’t wish her or her company any ill will. I just want to be safe, and I don’t want my block to turn into a commercial district.”
Rivlin also said that neighbors have frequently called the police on Visco, and each time they’re called “there is no actual issue or violation.”
“Were this actually a zoning controversy, it would be relatively simple to deal with,” Rivlin said. “Unfortunately, this is really about neighbors being unhappy about who moved in next door.”
The Springfield Township Police Department did not respond to the Local’s questions about incident records before Tuesday’s print deadline, but neighbors have informed the Local that they’ve called the police on Visco for noise complaints.
“She blasts her music and when we ask her to turn it down, initially she would turn it up,” Purple said. “She has done it a couple of times.”
Visco, sold her cannabis company to Chicago-based Verano Holdings for $135 million in February 2021 but stayed with the company in an executive position.