Skills House in Goldenrod Topic of Discussion at Lawrence Township Planning Commission Meeting

CLEARFIELD – The residents of a house that Skills of Central Pennsylvania purchased in Goldenrod was the topic of conversation at Tuesday night’s Lawrence Township Planning Commission meeting.

“I would like to apologize to the residents of Goldenrod Farms for any hardships that the articles in the local newspapers may have caused them and their families,” said Arnold “Boo” Swales, resident of Goldenrod. Swales also wished to apologize to people in the county for the misunderstanding.

“We are not against the services Skills of Central Pennsylvania offers to people with disabilities. However, Skills has been very secretive and tight-lipped about the people occupying and/or intended to occupy their facility,” said Swales.

“Consequently, our research, which was not made available to the press at the Aug. 1 meeting with the township supervisors, raises concerns towards Skills of Central Pennsylvania’s commitment to being a good neighbor,” added Swales.

Swales and other residents gathered believe that one of the residents currently living at the residence has allegedly committed sex crimes in the past. Another supposed future resident is believed to be housed in Clearfield County Jail and allegedly has a violent criminal background.

Swales provided the LTPC copies of these men’s past criminal complaints, which the LTPC approved passing on to the Lawrence Township Supervisors. The LTPC will recommend to the supervisors passing on that information to their solicitor, Jim Naddeo.

Sam Yost, chairman of the LTPC, told those gathered that there was nothing the LTPC could do to help the citizens. The LTPC only looks at subdivisions and land development issues.

At the last supervisors’ meeting, Swales and others were informed by Naddeo that the home was permitted through the township’s zoning ordinance.

Another issue that Yost brought up was the federal Fair Housing Act of 1968. The act prohibits discrimination in the sale, rental and financing of dwellings, and in other housing-related transactions, based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status (including children under the age of 18 living with parents of legal custodians, pregnant women, and people securing custody of children under the age of 18), and handicap (disability). 

Whether the Fair Housing Act supersedes the Goldenrod Farms community covenant remains to be seen. The covenant, which was enacted in 1956, allows professional offices or studios that employ no more than two people. The covenant is something that people enter into upon purchase of property in the neighborhood. It also lays down what constitutes an office or studio.

Sol Novey, resident of Goldenrod and LTPC member, said he was behind his concerned neighbors. He also stated that he believed the covenant took precedence over the Fair Housing Act.

“We feel like its a plan to give them lodging,” said Swales of Skills. Swales also questioned who was training these residents.

Swales said they had no problem with Skills operating as long as they brought in mentally handicapped residents.

“These are criminals,” said Swales of a current and future resident.

Yost did offer one possible avenue for the concerned residents. Yost said they could go to the zoning and hearing board.

Skills of Central Pennsylvania was not represented at the meeting, although Swales said he did try to inform them of it.

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