January 29, 2023

S. WHITEHALL TWP., Pa. – The South Whitehall Township Zoning Hearing Board held a public hearing Thursday night on an appeal involving a proposed sober dwelling.

The plan, offered by Moyer Construction LLC, would construct the facility which would occupy 3599 Broadway which is close to Cetonia Elementary School which is located at 3635 Broadway.

Moyer sought board approval for a “favorable interpretation” of the community’s zoning code “similar in character and effect to the permitted use of an assisted living facility” permitted in the R5 zoning district where the property is located is.

A sober living facility is not currently specifically listed in the municipality’s zoning ordinance. The site previously housed an assisted living facility that was disbanded in 2014.

The community maintains that the proposed sober living facility is actually a treatment facility, not an assisted living facility. A treatment plant is not permitted in this development area.

South Whitehall Township and Parkland School District are officially opposed to the petition. A school district attorney said the legal definitions of a drug and alcohol facility and an assisted living facility are not similar.

Attorney Nicholas Sabitine III, representing Moyer Construction, told the board a sober residential home differs from a treatment facility in that they are about people “dropping out” from drug and alcohol rehab programs. He added that the sober apartment buildings were granted licenses by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in June 2022.

His first witness was Eric Moyer, the property’s owner, who testified that he bought the property in June of that year. Moyer added that most people, including those in the community, didn’t really understand what a sober living facility is.

He said it is a structured home for people coming out of inpatient rehabilitation who are trying to reintegrate into society and abstain from alcohol and drugs. Residents are required to stay clean while living there and are subject to random testing. Moyer further pointed out that residents are required to be gainfully employed during their stay.

Moyer noted that three employees would be at the facility but would not be directly employed by Moyer’s company. However, on-site caretakers are employed by Moyer.

During cross-examination, Moyer admitted that he was unaware of the sober apartment building laws in Pennsylvania. Additionally, some operating procedures he testified would govern the proposed Broadway facility contradicted the statutes governing sober apartment buildings.

Moyer’s partner at the company – who would manage day-to-day operations – did not attend Thursday night’s hearing due to illness.

The hearing ended after more than two hours. As of Thursday night, no sequel date was set.

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