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Falls Supervisors Pass Ordinance Regulating Group Homes and Sober Living Environments

With a goal of providing the best possible quality of life for Falls Township residents while protecting occupants of group homes andsober living facilities, the Falls Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to adopt an ordinance to permit such facilities in specific zones.

In particular, the ordinance allows recovery houses or halfway houses in the township’s highway commercial district, and group homes in its low density residential district.

Under the federal Americans with Disabilities act, municipalities must permit group homes and sober living environments. Failure to permit these uses would result in federal and state lawsuits that the township would lose, costing taxpayers significant amounts of money needlessly.

Supervisor Chairman Bob Harvie said that “reasonable restrictions” could be placed on group homes and sober living environments. In this case, the board opted to permit the uses in zoning districts where they seem most appropriate.

“This seems to be the best arrangement,” he said.

In addition, the amendment to the ordinance clarifies the definition of family as individuals related by blood, marriage or adoption or a group of no more than five non-related people living together in a single dwelling. The ordinance defines a sober living environment as a residential facility where six or more non-related people live together.

The board is not changing the zoning in any areas of the township. Instead, the Supervisors, with the amendment, are allowing additional uses in the low density residential and highway commercial zones to permit group homes in areas where they will be compatible with the surrounding uses and  to lessen the traffic impact.

The ordinance requires an additional parking space for each non-resident staff person and one more parking space per every additional two residents beyond the initial five residents, unless sufficient proof is offered that those residing in the facility are not permitted  or capable of driving.

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