Residents raise question about zoning law

A company wants to put four residents with special needs in the neighborhood.
NEW CASTLE, Pa. -- Neshannock Township residents were told a group home can move into their neighborhood as long as the home's owner abides by state and federal guidelines.
A group of about 35 residents from Lattavo and Anne drives filled the municipal building meeting room to ask supervisors whether the township's zoning ordinance could stop a proposed group home by Passavant Memorial Homes Inc.
Richard Ludwiczak of Anne Drive was the spokesman at Wednesday's meeting. He represented more than 70 neighbors who signed a petition regarding a nonpermitted use of a single-family dwelling.
He told supervisors that the township's zoning officer is ignoring the neighbors' plea for answers.
Intended use
He said that Jim Farris, zoning officer, is aware that Passavant stated that the intended use for the home on 7 Lattavo Drive was for a single-family dwelling.
Ludwiczak told supervisors that shortly after Passavant purchased the home, a brochure was distributed around the neighborhood indicating the company operates community or group homes.
"If the Neshannock Township zoning ordinance is not the governing law in determining lawful locations for operating group homes in the township, the township needs to advise the citizenry and revise the zoning ordinance," Ludwiczak said.
Township Solicitor Richard Harper said that under state and federal laws, neighborhoods can't exclude people with disabilities from living in a residential zone.
He also said that Farris was not ignoring the residents but was seeking Harper's legal advice before proceeding.
The township's ordinance requires a single-family residence to be occupied by a single family up to and not exceeding four nonrelated members in one household.
Harper said that it was his understanding that Passavant intends to place four people with disabilities in the home at 7 Lattavo Drive.
Civil rights
Supervisor John DiCola Jr. said Harper had commented to him earlier regarding this matter, saying, "Our ordinance is as good as we can get it without violating federal law."
Harper said the township does not want a civil rights lawsuit on its hands.
Ludwiczak said the neighbors don't want to discriminate against anyone.
"The idea is we don't want a business in our residential neighborhood," he said.
Donald Colucci's property on Anne Drive abuts the Passavant property. He told supervisors he will watch to make sure no one infringes on his property. "I work hard to keep my property looking nice," he said.
Harper said that Passavant is being funded by grants from U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and there are strict guidelines the company is required to follow.
There are three other group homes located in the township operated by the Pennsylvania Association for Retarded Citizens.

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