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County zoning board approves expansion for sober house in Luzerne

County zoning board approves expansion for sober house in Luzerne

LUZERNE, LUZERNE COUNTY (WOLF) -- A Luzerne borough residence has plans to expand as a sober living house, after the Luzerne County Zoning Board unanimously granted approval.

"We allowed him to have five unrelated adults live in that building, whether they're recovering or not, doesn't matter," said Board Attorney Michael Butera.

The Vaughn St. property will house a handful of adults recovering from a range of addictions.

But the zoning meeting Monday night had some vocal opponents.

"One of the protesters said 'game on'." recalled Butera. "I assume that means that they're going to appeal that and it's going to go to court."

Butera says some people lost sight of the purpose of a zoning hearing.

"The zoning hearing is only to see that the zoning ordinance is complied with. We don't enforce other rules, regulations, and laws of the borough, or the county, or the state."

Shannon Luton heads up Harmony House, an affordable recovery housing organization, which will be leasing the Luzerne house from landlord Chris Grymko, and providing resources for occupants.

"We set up the house almost like a boarding house with so many beds per room," she said. "It's a lease pretty much saying these are the rules, this is what you have to follow. There's strict drug testing, there's meetings they have to attend."

Luton says residents agree to four phases, and typically stay around six months until they become independent.

To those who say 'not in my backyard' - she says the opioid crisis is already in all of our backyards.

"Genuine concerns, I honestly have no problem talking to people about that. The difficult part is that when people have 20 years of bigotry and stigma, and no matter what I say they don't want to hear it, they don't want solution. They just want to dwell in the problem," Luton said.

While some aren't pleased, people we spoke with Wednesday say they don't mind.

"I think people who are truly wanting to become sober, clean up their lives, and do and be something valuable, I think they need a chance," said an area woman who wished to remain anonymous.

Luton has been running Harmony House for the last ten months and already has nine homes and 42 beds. She's working on becoming a nonprofit.

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