Brighton Heights residents fight plan for recovery home in neighborhood
The owners of five Brighton Heights properties, including a Pittsburgh councilwoman and Allegheny County councilwoman, are trying to prevent a facility for adults recovering from addition to open in their neighborhood.
Pittsburgh Councilwoman Darlene Harris and Allegheny County Councilwoman Denise Ranalli-Russell, along with 11 neighbors and the Brighton Heights Citizen Federation, last week filed an appeal to a Pittsburgh Zoning Board of Adjustment decision.
Harris declined comment for this story. Ranalli-Russell did not immediately return a call seeking comment.
The board last month approved a zoning change for the nonprofit Three Rivers Youth to start a “community home,” in two buildings along Termon Avenue, the appeal said. The nonprofit plans to open the home at the site where 20 adults would stay for up to 90 days after they come from a program, said Peggy Harris, president and CEO of the nonprofit.
The nonprofit previously ran housing at the site for 12 teenage girls under age 18, Harris said. The nonprofit has owned the property since at least 1970, county real estate records show. In October, it started a“recovery house” for 30 adults recovering from drug and alcohol addiction to stay at the site for up to 90 days, Harris said. It ran for six months before the organization learned it needed a zoning change, Harris said.
Three Rivers Youth then applied for the necessary zoning changes, including a special variance to allow for more than one person to be able to sleep in some of the rooms, so 30 people could stay there.
The board approved the zoning change but denied the special variance, so only 20 adults can stay at the home at one time, Harris said.
The appeal mentions testimony from James Malanos, a principle in Baker Young Reality and treasurer of Bethlehem House, who said the house would have a “negative impact on development in the area and did not fit within the character of a neighborhood.”
The facility does not meet the definition of a “community home,” such as that the residents live as a family or in a family atmosphere, the appeal said.
Harris said she understood the neighbors’ concerns, but said the facility would not result in an increase in crime, traffic, or decrease property values.
The appeal alleged residents would include those from the Allegheny County Jail. Harris said that is not true.
“They can’t be out of jail or off the streets,” Harris said. “They have to come from programs where they’ve already had some success. That’s the critical difference. It’s not the same as a halfway house.”
Staff will supervise the residents 24 hours a day, and they are required to have jobs, Harris said.
The facility is part of the county’s response to the opioid crisis, Harris said.
The county’s department of human services will provide funding for the facility after it receives the zoning finalization, as part of a contract, a department spokesman said.
The nonprofit is waiting to receive an occupancy permit from the city before operating, Harris said.
Theresa Clift is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Theresa at 412-380-5669, [email protected] or via Twitter @tclift.