A Sharon Hill row-home converted into an addiction recovery facility called, “A Key to Freedom,” has some neighbors along Elmwood Ave. fearing its presence could impact the neighborhood’s reputation and reduce surrounding property values.
“I’ve spoken with a couple of realtors and I’m told that my house is subject to a down-price because of that facility,” said resident and former borough Councilman Dominic Corvaia, who is trying to sell his house located on the same block as the recovery home.
“I don’t think I should take that. I’ve been a resident of Sharon Hill for 60 years. I can’t understand why we let this guy get away with this. He doesn’t give a damn about the borough anymore; never did,” Corvaia fumed.
Corvaia said he believes the owner of the recovery home, another former councilman, Scott McNeil, “is not doing this freely and the occupants sit in the backyard and smoke their heads off.”
Borough solicitor Michael Schleigh said the borough is “doing some zoning changes” now and the issue of recovery homes is “being examined.” Borough Council President Michael Finnegan assures residents that the borough “is still looking into” the issue. Schleigh, however, maintained that the borough can’t control how a homeowner utilizes his property.
Still dissatisfied with responses from borough government, Corvaia warned, “There’s going to be a problem because some of the people I’ve seen there aren’t going to sit still; there’s two or three people living in that house.”
Schleigh asked Corvaia if he saw any “illegal activity.” He said he hasn’t but worries that the residential home has been illegally turned into a business based on his observations of seeing multiple, unrelated people occupying the home at different times.
“If they’re running an actual recovery home, that would be protected under the (Americans with Disabilities Act), the Fair Housing Authority Act and other similar laws, they need to operate it in such a way that they’re acting as a single-family home,” Schleigh said, adding that if the occupants are not in accordance with the law as a recovery home, then it “could be problematic.”
Schleigh and Finnegan suggested Corvaia keep a log of his observations and submit it to the borough for investigation.
However, MacNeil, a former resident and current landlord of the property in the 700 block of Elmwood Ave, said Corvaia’s observations are wrong. MacNeil said the renovated house is home to people in the final stages of recovery and prepares them for society.
“It’s for people in recovery for the 12-Step Program, such as alcoholism, sex, and gambling; we’re not exclusive to just drugs.” MacNeil told The Spirit. “It’s a stepping stone for people who are not yet ready to enter society, but have no place to go.”
MacNeil said he opened the home to offer guidance to people bettering themselves from the throes of addiction, a struggle he said he experienced first-hand.
“These people are living on their own with structure and a set of rules, but with other people who are doing the same,” MacNeil said of the occupants. “They are all required to get a job.”
At last month’s meeting, residents told Council they have seen as many as five people and one occupant, a woman, is frequently seen smoking cigarettes outside.
Corvaia warned that the problem is “going to get worse” and also believes the owner is “not doing this freely” but is profiting from the venture.
Another resident, Mary Elizabeth, said she saw “about four people in the past two days carrying luggage” and plastic containers.