A Recovery House by Another Name at 4834 Penn Street

At the Northeast EPIC Stakeholders meeting on July 26th, Deacon Lamont Parnell, President of Innovative Treatment Alternatives Inc. proposed an alternative use for 4834 Penn Street. Previous proposals included a drug recovery house and a senior citizen boarding home for those with mental health issues.

The new proposal is for a boarding home for veterans with issues.  They would be coming out of treatment, possibly from the Coatesville VA Medical Center.  They would stay for no longer than 12 months.

After hearing Deacon Purnell’s presentation, one gentleman in the audience noted that it sounds a lot like a recovery house but for veterans.  The truth is that it would be run in much the same way.  It would have much the same effect on the community.

Councilwoman Sanchez declared at the meeting (see video here) that there is still a moratorium on drug recovery houses but said that the owner is entitled to use the building in whatever way the law and regulations allow. That being the case, the first thing that should be done is to revisit the zoning history of the building and clarify what the zoning is and does the building conform to the zoning.

The zoning for the property is R15. In June of 1957 an application was made to legalize the use of the building for 11 families.  Apparently it had been in use that way for some time but was only approved for 8 families.  That application was approved.

Assuming that a family requires a dwelling unit, the number of dwelling units in the building should also be 11.  The definition of dwelling unit under the zoning code: A single unit within a building providing complete, independent living facilities for one or more persons, including permanent provisions for living, sleeping, eating, cooking, and sanitation.  The building does not have the 11 kitchens and bathrooms necessary for 11 dwelling units.  It appears that the building was never brought into compliance with the zoning variance granted.  If that is the case, it would make sense to send it back to zoning for a new application.

If the owner then wants to upgrade it to 11 apartments I don’t believe the community would have any objection.

In regard to the future use of the building as a group home of the kind proposed, all of those proposals made by Deacon Purnell involve a group of unrelated persons living together under supervision.  This seems to be a use that does not fall within the definition of a family in the zoning code.  Definition of family under the zoning code: A person living independently or a group of persons living as a single household unit using housekeeping facilities in common, but not to include more than three persons who are unrelated by blood, marriage, adoption, or foster-child status.

Using the concept that 3 unrelated people sharing a space temporarily while in recovery does not make them a family which is clearly what the zoning code had in mind when it was written.  That is what the 1957 zoning form says: FAMILIES

I am proud to say that in every meeting I have attended where this issue has been discussed, never has there been a negative comment about those who need help or recovery.  The issue is that now Frankford needs recovery from hosting so many of these facilities for these years.  Our goal should be the use of this property in a way that will be beneficial to the residents of Frankford.  If it is not good for the residents then it should be opposed.