"And, what if one of the neighbors says, 'You gave him a variance. I want to run a manufacturing business in my house, too.' That is why we're fighting this."
The city's Zoning Board of Adjustment granted owner Flore Andresi a hardship variance in 2012, after hearing that the property had been vacant for years before he bought it, and that he was living in the house and making dental retainers in one of the rooms.
The civic association appealed that decision in Common Pleas Court, and won, sending the case back to the zoning board, where Andresi attempted to prove hardship last week.
But as the zoning board learned, his situation has changed dramatically.
Andresi testified that he is no longer living in the house and hasn't lived there for a year.
He testified that he is only using the house to make dental retainers.
So the residentially zoned house on a completely residential block is now being used only for manufacturing.
"People do love their lawns and they love their yards," O'Hara told the zoning board, emphasizing the well-kept residential character of the Northeast Philadelphia neighborhood.
Two zoning board members stated that they did not know Andresi had moved out of the house.
Three members questioned whether the property still qualifies for a hardship variance.
A decision is expected shortly.
"Bustleton is very residential," O'Hara told the Daily News. "People enjoy living in this semisuburban area of the city. This guy manufacturing dental retainers on a residential block is a step in dismantling that fabric.
"We don't want to appear like we're being the bad guy or the hard guy," he said. "But the time has come for him to move his business to a business zone. There are plenty of vacant storefronts for rent in business districts around here."
Andresi said last night that his business is so nonintrusive, he doesn't understand why the civic association wants him to leave.
"My next-door neighbors are fine with me to stay there," he said, with a heavy accent. "I respect all my neighbors. I do nothing to disturb anybody.
"I've done everything legal," Andresi said. " I have a business privilege license from the city. I pay taxes on my business.
"I'm from Romania. My family grew up poor. I like this country. I like to act like a good citizen. I work 16 hours a day. I put two kids in college. What I did wrong?"
On Twitter: @DanGeringer