Masonic Villages withdraws children’s home plan in Aleppo

Tuesday, January 9, 2018 | 2:09 PM


Citing resident concerns, Masonic Village at Sewickley has withdrawn its request to amend the Aleppo Township zoning ordinance — pulling current plans to add a children's home on its 60-acre property.

Masonic Villages, which operates five retirement communities across Pennsylvania including one in Aleppo, had sought to amend the township's zoning ordinance to allow the addition of a living space for youth who are struggling with their home life.

Aleppo leaders received a letter Monday withdrawing the application from Masonic Village, township commissioners President Matthew Doebler said.

“We are working to develop more detailed answers for community residents and share how a children's home in Sewickley will benefit not only children in need, but the entire community, as our current children's home in Elizabethtown, Pa., has for over a century,” Debra Davis, public relations manager for Masonic Villages said in an email. “We will revisit the request to the township in the future.”

Residents had raised concerns that a children's home on the Masonic Villages property would disrupt their residential neighborhood, lower property values and said they had unanswered questions.

They questioned everything from lighting on the property to added buses driving on their street, to where staff would park and what qualifications the employees would have.

Masonic Villages, a nonprofit, charitable arm of the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania, has operated a similar children's home at it's Elizabethtown location in Lancaster County for 104 years.

The additional children's home in Aleppo would meet the needs of families struggling with raising children in their home in western Pennsylvania, Davis said.

All of the children at the home would have attended the Quaker Valley School District. One “house parent” would be assigned for every eight children. The site initially would have housed 16 youths: eight girls and eight boys, with plans to later expand to 32 youths.

Commissioners plan to vote on a motion at their Jan. 15 legislative meeting that will withdraw all motions related to the proposed children's home, Doebler said.

Stephanie Hacke is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.