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Group home raises questions among Tinicum residents


In an effort to head off conflict with the owners of a special group home that recently began operating in their township, Tinicum Township officials are seeking a meeting with the attorney for the business.

The establishment has caused deep concern among many residents who were unsure of its actual nature. The township wants to seek answers to some questions, as well as offer some suggestions. An update on the matter was announced at the close of the Feb. 18 public board of supervisors meeting.

Solicitor Stephen Harris has been authorized to send a letter requesting the meeting, and stating that in the meantime, the township would withhold enforcement of the zoning violation notice the township has issued, if the business will hold off on its threat of litigation, which had been its response to the zoning notice.

At their public board meeting on Jan. 21, supervisors had moved to table consideration of a new ordinance regulating group residences, known as sober living homes, and to issue the zoning violation notice, which was understood to be for a commercial operation in a residential zone.

The issue had drawn a large crowd to the meeting, with neighbors of the new group residence expressing their concerns about what they had learned was a for-profit residence for those recovering from drug and/or alcohol addiction, without gaining much further information.

During discussion on Jan. 21, Solicitor Stephen Harris noted that the issue had been a point of discussion in many municipalities, deriving especially from the magnitude of the opioid addiction epidemic. He said that the federal Fair Housing Act had often been brought into play, given that it did not apply to current drug users, and that in summary, the issue was a “difficult question about which reasonable men and women can disagree.”

Also at the Feb. 18 meeting, supervisors entertained a comprehensive status report from board members of the Tinicum Township Police Foundation (TTPF), an independent 501(c)(3) organization that is in partnership with the township “by providing new tools and education” for its police officers. They noted a variety of new equipment provided and training developments completed, in 2019, and their plans for more in 2020, as an alternative to new requests from the tight township budget.

During discussion, a resident expressed gratitude for the township having its own police force, with support from the partnership. He described it as a much preferred arrangement to not having its own force, relying instead on the state police, who already have several municipal responsibilities in Upper Bucks, or relying on a regional police department, again with multiple municipal responsibilities.

During his regular monthly report, Police Chief Matt Phelan described the arrangement as a “great partnership, that has way exceeded my expectations.”

TTPF board members include Jason Wehrung, Sue Walsh, Boyce Budd, Wayne Hobson, and Patrick Mullaney. Residential and corporate donations can be made via regular mail to P.O. Box 118, Erwinna, Pa. 18920, or via PayPal on the Tinicum Township Police Foundation Facebook page.

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