Final Testimony in Sober Living House Hearing

Testimony is complete in the long-running appeal by the owner of the “sober living” facility at 224 N. Providence Road to the Nether Providence Township Zoning Hearing Board.

Nether Providence cited the owner, Dung “Gabe” Lau, in 2015 for a nonconforming use of the property, which is zoned residential, as the location of a business which provides a temporary residence for recovering addicts. Lau has continued to operate the facility during the appeal, which will likely be resolved in April.

At its Monday night meeting the Zoning Hearing board heard testimony from neighbors of 224. Attorneys Vincent Mancini of Media and Jack Rule of Collegeville questioned Bradley Lambertsen, co-owner of a property bordering 224 on the north side, who described his observations of property use inconsistent with a residence, including surges of traffic and activity on certain days, commercial vehicles making deliveries of food and supplies, and overflowing parking areas.

Neighbors spoke during the public comment period after the township and the property owner rested their cases.

Daphne Bogert of Sherwood Lane emphasized that the house is not a typical residence, in that its tenants are locked out for most of the day and that it hosts regular meetings and meals for nonresidents. Further, she said, this group home operates in an unregulated environment and is likely to house residents who are not suited to the facility. Alexander Sapega of N. Providence Rd., a physician, suggested that many of those residents admitted under the owner’s stated criteria are not ready for the level of supervision provided at the facility, and are thus at great risk of relapse.

Ani Diakotos of Dogwood Lane, a commercial insurance agent, noted that Pennsylvania does not certify or license group recovery homes, and that she “has seen too many claims” to support this use. Diakotos and a half-dozen other neighbors expressed their belief that the owner of the house was intentionally deceitful in purporting to have purchased 224 as a private home, then establishing an unlicensed business there.

Testimony will be transcribed for the use of counsel; counsel will summarize their cases in briefs and the Board will meet again April 17, hoping to render a decision on that date.

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