Shaler commissioners to discuss legal settlement on property

Saturday, July 6, 2019 | 12:01 AM


The Shaler commissioners are slated to discuss a legal settlement regarding a property request at its 7 p.m. July 9 meeting.

According to Shaler Manager Tim Rogers, Scioto Properties, owner of 444 McElheny Road, applied for a permit in May 2018 for a home housing eight people with traumatic brain injuries. For-profit corporation ReMed would operate the facility.

Residents appeared before the township’s zoning hearing board to voice concerns that a nonprofit entity would not oversee the site, the building would require significant expansion and a sharp bend at the McElheny intersection could pose safety issues for the home’s residents and visitors.

The township denied Scioto use of a property variance. As a result, Scioto is suing Shaler, stating that the township’s failure to permit the proposed use in the residential zoning districts violates the Fair Housing Act, Rehabilitation Act, Americans with Disabilities Act, Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution and the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

“It’s not a rezoning. … Negotiations are over whether there’s a settlement. There’s nothing concerning legal fees. The township is paying its fees; they’re paying their fees,” Rogers told a standing-room only audience at a June commissioners meeting. Based on solicitor Harlan Stone’s recommendation, the commissioners voted to table discussion regarding the settlement until at least the following month.

Attorney Robert J. Wratcher, who is representing Scioto, was not in attendance.

Rogers noted that there currently are 21 group homes, mostly housing three adults, operating in Shaler’s residential zoning areas. Most are nonprofits.

“By the court, you have to treat residents as a single family,” he said.

Attorney Patrick Murray of 450 McElheny is a party in the case also representing homeowners with properties near the proposed group home.

“I adamantly disagree that they would be treated as a single-family residence. That’s not to say that the township doesn’t have risks if the litigation goes on. And that’s not to say that anything is a slam dunk, but I think that that’s their (Scioto’s) weakest argument. I think the best argument that they would have had would have been a reasonable accommodation argument, and they got so arrogant that they didn’t put the evidence in,” he said.

Scioto’s representatives said under oath that they are a licensed personal care facility, Murray said.

“Not only do these people have care around the clock, they also have physical therapy, respiratory therapy, occupational therapy, other therapists coming in on a regular basis and I really think that that changes the circumstances of what we need to look at.”

Rogers said that the township and the board had postponed the litigation a year “trying to do what the residents want.” However, Shaler also has to adhere to the confines of the law.

He does not see the need for a traffic study on McElheny. Although most of Shaler’s roads were built in the 1940s and ’50s, they meet PennDOT qualifications. Most traffic incidents occur in the winter.

Stone informed the crowd that due to the case’s pending nature, the commissioners could take constituents’ input but could not comment on the case.