Claims of illegal transitional housing use land property owner in court
By Jamie Wiggan
Stowe Township is taking a property owner to court on claims she’s operating an illegal transitional housing facility in a residential section of the town.
A civil complaint filed by Harry Seretti, the township’s ordinance officer, accuses owner Sharon Harkins and Neighborhood Homes LLC of violating two sections of the zoning ordinance by running the facility at 717 Russellwood Ave. without the appropriate permits.
Although not mentioned in the filing, Seretti said the case is heightened by complaints from a local resident alleging harassment by the building’s occupants.
Harkins bought the property more than five years ago, according to Seretti, and filed a special uses permit application at the time requesting to operate a senior living facility there.
The permit was approved, however a provision in the township’s zoning ordinance overturns business use exemptions assigned to residentially-zoned buildings when they cease to operate for a 12-month period.
According to township officials, the property mostly remained vacant until earlier this year but now houses around 20 residents, including some recovering addicts and others recently released from the justice system.
“This is definitely not a senior care home,” Seretti said.
Seretti said a nearby neighbor alerted the township to an influx of activity around the property in early spring, and subsequently submitted multiple written statements complaining she was being harassed by the building’s occupants.
The case will be heard by Magisterial District Judge Bruce Boni on Nov. 11.
Harkins did not respond to calls requesting comment.