Residence for homeless veterans gets 2nd chance

The Middletown Planning Commission is expected to vacate its earlier decision at its meeting tonight, Oct. 9, and allow a home at 1314 Fairmount Ave. to be used as a residence for homeless veterans from Middletown who are recovering from substance abuse issues.

Les Landen, the city’s law director, said after the August planning commission meeting there was a “misunderstanding” about how the home was going to be used. He said the city — because of wording on the application — thought it was going to be a shelter or group home. Instead, he said, because three to five residents will be living there, it’s considered residential, which is a permissible use.

Landen said the residents “have a right to be there.”

At a meeting in August, residents and property owners who opposed the plan said the house is located a block-and-a-half away from the old turf of the Baltimore Street Gang that terrorized the neighborhood for years with assaults, robberies and drug dealing.

The proposed location is not the right area for a shelter, they said, as drug activity is still prevalent in the area.

“They (the veterans) don’t need to be there if they have substance abuse (issues),” said Sherry Sunderhaus, who owns a house at 1309 Fairmount Ave.

Barbara Arnold, owner of 1307 Fairmount Ave., said “there’s enough going on” in the area without adding at-risk, recovering addicts to the mix.

The house, owned by John Porter of Trenton, is located in the middle of a low-traffic, mixed-use neighborhood with rental and owner-occupied homes. Walter Gilbert, who presented the project to planning commission in August, said the location was chosen because it’s within walking distance of two Alcoholics Anonymous programs.

Staff Writer Michael D. Pitman contributed to this report.