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Neighbors balk at moving women's shelter to vacant church rectory

The acronym "NIMBY" is familiar to many people in the Philadelphia area who get involved in neighborhood zoning disputes. The acronym stands for "Not In My Back Yard," and it refers to people who oppose the location of a controversial land use in their neighborhood. The latest NIMBY dispute involves a women's shelter in Montgomery County that wants to move its offices and facilities to a vacant church rectory in East Norriton Township and must obtain a rezoning to do so.

The Montgomery County Women's center, known as Laurel House, has provided a haven for abused women and children since 1980. Its offices in Norristown are located in an old house that is several blocks removed from its care facilities, which are located in another older building. This separation creates a number of administrative problems, and many of the center's residents find the narrow stairways and hallways difficult to navigate. The center is seeking zoning approval from the town board so that it can combine its facilities and offices in the vacant rectory of St. Titus' Church and construct another building on the site.

Unfortunately for Laurel House, residents of the adjacent neighborhood have organized opposition to the proposed move. Residents fear the presence of the women's center would attract abusers looking for victims, increase traffic and noise on neighborhood streets and ultimately lower home values. The director of Laurel House responded by noting that in the 35 years of its existence, the center has never had an abuser appear on its steps. The zoning board will conduct a public hearing and vote on the proposed zoning change at its next regular meeting.

Anyone who is or may become involved in a rezoning dispute can obtain useful advice from a lawyer who specializes in real estate law. A knowledgeable attorney can provide a helpful evaluation of the situation, identify potential legal strategies and an estimate of obtaining a favorable outcome.

Source: Philly.com, "Neighbors balk as Montco shelter seeks new home," Laura McCrystal, Dec. 17, 2015

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