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Controversial housing ban may be discussed; more than 2 unrelated people can't live together

By Dan Miller

danmiller@pressandjournal.com

717-944-4628
Posted 5/22/19

The dropping of an appeal in Dauphin County Court appears to clear the way for Middletown Borough Council to consider changes to a controversial ordinance banning more than two unrelated people from …

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Controversial housing ban may be discussed; more than 2 unrelated people can't live together

Posted

The dropping of an appeal in Dauphin County Court appears to clear the way for Middletown Borough Council to consider changes to a controversial ordinance banning more than two unrelated people from living in the same house.

On May 7, former council member Diana McGlone withdrew the appeal that her company, Sweet Arrow Properties LLC, filed in county court last August.

The appeal sought to overturn a Middletown zoning board decision upholding a violation notice the borough issued Sweet Arrow for renting a house on West Water Street to four unrelated Penn State Harrisburg students.

McGlone told the Press & Journal she dropped the appeal to prevent the further spending of borough tax dollars — and her own money — on the litigation.

“The borough had a choice to continue to fight me or (to) rescind the violation. They chose to continue to fight,” McGlone said.

Sweet Arrow since the borough issued the notice is participating in the Dauphin County Section 8 housing voucher program for low-income families to “protect our tenants and ourselves as landlord from being harassed by borough officials regarding the relationship status of their tenants,” McGlone said.

The ordinance against more than two unrelated people living in the same house in Middletown is also opposed by Riley Cagle, president of the Penn State Harrisburg Student Government Association.

The ordinance discriminates against students wanting to live in the borough, and is a roadblock to improved relations between the borough and Penn State Harrisburg students, Cagle has said.

Ordinance supporters say the provision deters owners of single-family homes from converting their homes into apartments to rent to students, or renting rooms to students.

These supporters say this trend is reducing the amount of on-street parking available in residential areas, and also contributes to the deterioration of these neighborhoods.

But Cagle says besides its negative consequences for Penn State Harrisburg students, the ordinance is unenforceable.

“There is no legal or ethical way unless you get a confession from the people saying they are not related,” Cagle told the Press & Journal.

If, for example, three or more women living in the same house tell the borough, “We’re all sisters,” the borough is in the position of having to disprove that, Cagle said.

“That’s one of the biggest flaws of the ordinance. It kind of stops there,” he said.

Borough officials — including the solicitor, Borough Manager Ken Klinepeter and council members — for months have been saying council could not consider changing the ordinance, as long as McGlone was pursuing her court appeal.

Cagle on April 25 met with Klinepeter and with Rep. Tom Mehaffie, R-Lower Swatara Township, to discuss the ordinance.

Cagle also submitted a 17-page policy paper including recommendations for how the borough can amend or replace the ordinance, and address related issues like parking. The paper has been distributed to council, Cagle said.

Cagle said the paper does not reflect the views of Penn State Harrisburg but is a research project Cagle did for a class. He got an A-plus on the paper.

“The point is to get them to think about it. Here’s a starting point,” Cagle said.

In light of McGlone dropping her appeal, council was planning to discuss the housing ordinance at its next meeting. That’s what Cagle said he was told by Klinepeter.

Council’s meeting has been postponed from Wednesday until Tuesday, May 28, due to “scheduling conflicts,” Council President Angela Lloyd told the Press & Journal in a text message.

Neither Lloyd nor Klinepeter responded to a request for comment regarding whether council plans to discuss the housing ordinance on May 28.