Ultimatum Issued To Bensalem Zoning Board On Sober House Issue

by Alex Lloyd Gross

When Judy Cost sold her property in 2014 to Mar-Mar Builders Inc she never thought that the sale would be so contentious. “I was offered over a million dollars and I turned it down.”, she said. As time went on, she was getting older and wanted to think of her family. Property values were declining and she eventually sold it for $340,000 to Mar-Mar. That property, at 1186 Byberry Road has sat vacant for about 10 years.

Last night, at the Zoning hearing Board in Bensalem, Mar-Mar , through their attorney Edward Murphy sought a variance to the zoning ruling . Currently, they are allowed to erect a sober living community at that location. They want a variance to build twin homes on that land. They made it clear to the board last night that either they get a variance or a three story, 240 person sober house would be built . Residents were outraged. “There is no third option, it’s whatever the community wants. If they want the houses, they will get the houses, if they don’t we will build a sober living community” Murphy said.

Alex Lloyd Gross Photo-Delaware Valley News.com Mar-Mar owners and representatives listen to the testimony.

The zoning board was not happy about this, calling it “extortion”. When Mar-Mar bought the property, they thought they were able to build the homes but they were wrong. They cannot. Someone did not do their due diligence when the sale was transacted. They can build the sober house, which the township cannot legally stop them. They cannot re zone the land to keep the sober house out. If they did, Bensalem would wind up the defendant in a federal lawsuit and lose, said Joseph Pizzo, the Township Solicitor.

During the meeting, zero residents stood up to support Mar-Mar. Several, including Cost, stood and made themselves parties to the case. By being a party, they demonstrated that they are impacted directly by any ruling. They have the right to challenge any ruling in court. Last night, Murphy spoke erroneously about the woodlands that would be decimated. He said the trees are “dying, dead or diseased”, when there are many trees that are healthy. He spoke to minimize any concern for wildlife. His client, before the meeting simply said “So we should leave it as a place for ducks to piss and shit , leave it a toilet”? His client refused to give his full name or provide any business card to this publication. Mar-Mar is and established home builder that has several properties in Bucks County.

Prior to the meeting, Mar-Mar said that the purchase price that they paid for the property was irrelevant. to this story and refused to disclose it. Records show they paid $340,000.

The sober house, if it is erected will have very limited parking, causing visitors and residents to park in neighboring Judson Meadows, or on Byberry Road. It will be transient, with no residents calling this area home. It’s quite possible that a crack whore from Kensington who is undergoing court ordered treatment will wind up living at 1156 Byberry Road for a while.. The residents will probably be free to wander in the neighborhoods, Police resources and rescue squad recourses will be used frequently for calls for service. That means when a township resident having a heart attack, and a recovering addict is having an overdose, where does the ambulance go? Who is going to pay for more medic units?

There has been no study of the woodland and storm retention that is mandated. By destroying all of the wooded area, a heavy storm could cause the area to flood. which means flooded streets and possibly homes that have been in the township for decades could flood. Mar-Mar representatives said they will do a land use study down the road.

The twin housing development will bring increased traffic with one ingress and egress road. Parking will be enough for two cars per house, Mar-Mar reps said. The neighborhood will be more stable than a sober living facility, with many people putting down roots. The homes will probably sell for about $400,000 or more if market values stay the same.

Alex Lloyd Gross Photo-Delaware Valley News.com -Edward Murphy fields a question as Mar-Mar owners listen during the Bensalem Zoning Board meeting.

The Zoning Hearing Board did not like having an ultimatum put to them and voted to table and review the proposals for 45 days. After that ruling, 85 percent of the room cleared out, with many saying Mar-Mar should sell the property back to the township and be done with it.