WILKES-BARRE – During a contentious meeting Wednesday the city zoning heard board denied requests to expand one transitional housing facility and set up another for women recovering from alcohol and drug abuse.
The five-member board unanimously voted against allowing House of Principles to operate two boarding homes for up to seven women each on Carlisle Street.
Separate from the board's vote, its Solicitor Charles McCormick recommended the city today close down two other properties illegally operating as group residences on East South and Gates streets.
The decisions drew applause from residents who filled the fourth-floor council chambers at City Hall for the board's meeting.
McCormick acted after attorney Frank Hoegen, representing Allen Morrow of Shavertown, withdrew two applications for special exemptions on the properties that failed residential inspections last week and the board refused to grant a continuance due to the unavailability of witnesses to testify for the owner.
The inspections uncovered as many as 13 people living in the East South Street building and 11 at the Gates Street property. Morrow was asking for a special exception to house up to seven in each building.
As for House of Principles, its owner James Danaher of Kingston already had a building housing four women. He purchased another nearby property this year and sought permission to make them rooming houses for up to seven women. His attorney Joe Terrana, said there have been no problems at the existing house.
But with the designation as a group residence House of Principles would not have to go through lengthy tenant evictions and could more quickly discharge women for violations of the contracts they sign to live at the facility, Terrana explained.
Joseph DeBiase disputed the residence was problem-free. Michael Ford of East Stroudsburg, who rented to House of Principles on Carlisle Street before it bought its first house in 2010, lauded the organization for its program, but said he was concerned about how the expansion would exacerbate the parking problem in the neighborhood.
DeBiase lashed out at Ford for staring at him while he spoke and threatened him.
"How much more of this have I got to take?" asked Ford who sat across the aisle from DeBiase."
"How much? How much? C'mon. I'll wrap you with the cane," DeBiase said, raising his cane at Ford.
After McCormick ordered DeBiase from the meeting, he shouted from the back of the room, "I'll see you in the neighborhood Mike. Believe me. That's not a threat, it's a promise."