After years of debate and controversy, Bristol Township is preparing to solidify local regulations that will help govern the municipality’s surge of rogue recovery homes.
The township’s governing council, after first experiencing technical difficulties, discussed impending ordinance amendments late into the evening Tuesday. The discussion, led by Solicitor Randy Flager and Vice President Amber Longhitano, evaluated the current rogue home issue with local residents as well as some of the owners of voluntarily-regulated township recovery homes governed by the Pennsylvania Association of Recovery Residences (PARR) and the Bucks County Recovery House Association (BCRHA).
Bryan Kennedy, the owner of three recovery homes under the Independence Lodge umbrella; Michelle Kaisinger, the owner of five recovery homes managed by Emilie House; and Barbara Williamson, the owner of five recovery homes referred to as Way of Life Recovery, all gave testimony Tuesday night in favor of the amended ordinance.
The ordinance changes, which Flager and Longhitano both said needs some minor wording changes, will be re-advertised and are expected to be approved at the township’s next scheduled council meeting in August. Councilman Patrick Antonello noted that the ordinance in its entirety will be made available on the township website soon for resident review.
According to Flager, the amended ordinance will change the definition of a family and provide a definition for a recovery home, restrict recovery homes to the residential, commercial and neighborhood commercial zoning districts, require distancing of 300 feet between recovery homes, require specific parking regulations and require recovery homes to be governed by either a local (BCRHA), state (PARR) or federal association.
While the BCRHA currently governs about approximately 72 homes owned by 15 different individuals, about as many as half of the estimated recovery homes in the township are without regulations, something the township seeks to fix with the passing of the amended ordinance. These homes, which according to governed recovery home owners, do not offer a sober living program but instead provide space to anyone clean from drugs or not, are referred to commonly as “rogue homes.”
When Williamson, 28, left Livengrin after being homeless in Kensington, she said she was lucky enough to get a spot at Emilie House to continue her path to sobriety; others like Kennedy, weren’t so lucky. Kennedy, who now owns Independence Lodge, went through a rogue home seven years ago and said it was because he “didn’t know any better” – Kennedy’s success staying clean in a rogue home is a rare positive story that’s come out of the unregulated system.
“I was one of those knuckleheads, but I was brought back to life in a great positive way,” said Kennedy. He remarked to the board that although there may be a negative connotation behind those living in recovery homes, he’s had Wall Street guys, military service members, and even active duty police officers come through Independence Lodge.