Sober Living House Meets ‘Bleak House’

Dung H. Lau (left) was questioned Monday night by attorney Vincent Mancini during the Nether Providence Zoning Hearing Board’s consideration of Lau’s appeal of the citation of his property at 224 N. Providence Road.

Dung H. Lau (left) was questioned Monday night by attorney Vincent Mancini during the Nether Providence Zoning Hearing Board’s consideration of Lau’s appeal of the citation of his property at 224 N. Providence Road.

Jarndyce and Jarndyce were absent, but three attorneys representing parties to the case of a Wallingford “sober living” group residence advocated on behalf of their clients in the third monthly installment of Nether Providence Township’s zoning hearing of the appeal of Providence Recovery House. Wallingford’s version of the Charles Dickens serial novel Bleak House seems destined to continue into its third calendar year.

Monday night’s two and a half hour session involved township solicitor Michael Maddren and Media attorney Vincent Mancini in cross-examination of Dung H. “Gabe” Lau, who as owner of the house at 224 N. Providence Road has been cited for operating a business there, in a district zoned residential. Maddren encouraged Lau to expand on documentary evidence regarding the services provided and uses of the house, the conditions under which residents may come and go, interact with one another and staff, and the contracts, agreements and financial relationships among clients and service providers.

Attorney Mancini pressed Mr. Lau on the nature of the services provided by the sober living house and the related Providence Living addiction treatment facility at 1223 N. Providence Road in Upper Providence Township, which is jointly owned by Mr. Lau and Dr. William Heran. Lau and his attorney, Wendy McLean frequently noted that medical and treatment questions should properly be addressed to Dr. Heran, CEO of the treatment center, when he testifies. Mancini also focused questioning on use of the 224 house and the neighboring property at 218, which was also bought by Mr. Lau, inquiring as to the number of resident, regular visitors and the traffic they generate.

Attorney Davis stressed the burden of the continuing case to prospective witnesses like Dr. Heran, who must clear his schedule of professional appointments to await his turn to testify. Heran will be called to testify on December 19, following the conclusion of cross examination of Lau. Also at the December installment of the hearing, Mancini intends to call as witnesses the parents of Brian Fetterman, who died of a drug overdose in October 2015 while a resident of the sober living house. Once these witnesses have been heard, the ZHB will consider the testimony and make its ruling, most likely not before 2017.

Several among the immediate neighbors of 224 N. Providence Road observing the hearing have established an ad hoc group called the Nether Providence Community Zoning Collaborative. The group has crowdfunded via direct and Paypal donations to npczc224@gmail.com, though members were pessimistic about the prospects for continuing legal representation in the absence of more funding.

Solicitor Maddren noted that while the township and other parties originally planned to separate the zoning hearing and any potential accommodation hearing, he is hopeful that much of the testimony from the zoning matter would be available and applicable to later proceedings, potentially saving time.

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