Indiana, PA - Indiana County

JASON SINGLETON: Zoning rules tramp on property owners' rights

on April 17, 2009 12:00 AM

I find it ironic that the Indiana County commissioners have the boldness to proclaim April as Fair Housing Month, “reaffirming the right of county residents to live where they want without prejudice and discrimination.” It is clear to many in Indiana Borough that there is discrimination occurring in the form of craftily worded ordinances.

(Originally published Thursday, April 16, 2009)

(Read more local comment and opinion in The Indiana Gazette and in the Opinions >> Letters section on The Indiana Gazette Online.)

For instance, I own a three-bedroom home three blocks from the Indiana University of Pennsylvania campus. My family of five moved out of the house (exercising my right to choose where I live), but I chose to keep it as an investment property.

At that time, I was informed of the ridiculous zoning ordinances. My home is categorized as R-1 zoning, otherwise known as “one unrelated.” That means I can rent to one individual or one “functional family” of unlimited number.

To my knowledge, a “functional family” is defined by the borough as a group that can prove their bond with things like shared bank accounts or other historical proofs of a long-term relationship. The spirit of this zoning is occupational discrimination against students.

The borough has found a seemingly legal way to make students live where the borough desires, rather than adhering to the spirit of the April celebration, allowing residents to freely choose where they want to live. If this is not the case, is it really logical to limit occupancy to one individual or a family of unlimited number?

As a result, a professional single who would like to rent a home with a roommate can no longer do so - unless they share a bank account and pose as long-term partners. The owner of a four-bedroom, two-bath home one block from campus cannot move away and keep their home as a profitable investment - unless they find one person or a large “functional family” to rent it. A family renting an R-1 home cannot even allow a friend having financial or personal issues to move in with them - unless they are related. Another consequence of this ordinance is that many borough homes close to campus suddenly plummeted in value as a result of this ordinance.

I understand there are residents of Indiana Borough excited by the student housing prohibitions enacted by the borough council, but it affects the rights of individuals in the process.

To the disgruntled borough resident, I say you have two options. If your neighbors (students or otherwise) are not abiding by the laws and ordinances on the books, call the authorities and hold the authorities responsible for enforcing the laws of the land. Or, as a decision-making individual who can control your own geographical destiny rather than all of those around you, move away from that which disturbs you.

What makes it OK to limit the rights of property owners and residents? And how is it possible in these politically correct days for the borough to tramp on the rights of so many individuals? Don't even get me started on the 400-foot rule or parking permit fees.

Jason Singleton

Indiana

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