Township Warns Good Samaritan Not To Feed Hungry Children Without Zoning Variance

A Philadelphia-area woman is learning that no good deed goes un-chastised, after being warned by local authorities that she could face steep fines if she continues to provide free meals to hungry children in her neighborhood.

According to WTXF-TV, the woman has been giving out free meals — provided by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, which also monitors the program — to children in her Delaware County, PA, township, where the per capita income is only around $19,000 per year.

But then she got the bad news from the township that her distribution of free meals in an area zoned as residential is in violation of local zoning codes.

With only a few weeks left in the summer, the township has agreed to let the woman’s program continue without penalty. But she has been warned that if she does the same thing next summer, she could be fined $600/day.

She can get around the fines if she appears before the zoning board to apply for a variance, but that alone will cost her $1,000 in fees.

Philadelphia News, Weather and Sports from WTXF FOX 29

Thanks to Jeff for the tip!

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  1. benminer says:

    Surely there must be a mayor, Judge, or city administrator somewhere with half an ounce of human dignity who can waive those fees.

    • Lyn Torden says:

      You’d think it would be that simple. But for every variance request, it is not simply a matter of reading it before a variance board and getting a yes or no. There has to be a report of a short study of the likely impact, that includes a survey of the neighborhood, and announcement to neighbors about the process so they can file petitions and/or show up at the variance board to support or object (and a lot of people will object). The costs for these things when adding up city worker time can be hundreds of dollars or more. People will then object to the freebie because they are paying the taxes for it, or demand their variance be given a similar pass.

      • 180CS says:

        How about this – she is acting as an agent for a local 501, her archdiocese. If you are a 501, or agent thereof, you don’t pay for the variance.

        You know, kind of like how you don’t pay taxes, because any revenue you would make is going to a greater good anyway?

        • sagodjur1 says:

          “because any revenue you would make is going to a greater good anyway?”

          Like covering up child molestation?

          • spamtasticus says:

            Ouchy. The Vatican cant even catch a break on a random, non religion story’s comment on consumerist. I wonder why people hate them so much.

      • MeowMaximus says:

        Yes, actually it is. No study needed, just grant the damn variance, and don’t charge a fee. There is no impact. Anyone bitches, tell them to STFU.

        • NeverLetMeDown2 says:

          Yeah, let’s totally let gov’t officials just decide not to charge fees and taxes required by law, because they want to.

    • kathygnome says:

      Chances are that an administrator can’t do that because the public doesn’t put enough trust in public employees to give them any discretionary power, so everything has to go in front of an official committee. And they don’t trust committees, so it has to have public notice and a formal open meeting.

      You can apply to have fees waived where I live and there’s almost no chance that wouldn’t happen in a case like this. But to be honest, there’s also no chance it would get approved by a board either. The dancing nimbys would come out from under their rocks like cockroaches at night and put a quick end to that.

  2. PragmaticGuy says:

    Yep…this from the City of Brotherly Love.

    • rdclark says:

      Philadelphia is not a “Delaware County, PA township.”

      • SerenityDan says:

        Yeah how far away from the city do they have to be before Philly gets dragged into everything. We got enough problems stop dragging us into the mud because most people are too stupid to know where this town is.

        • Jane_Gage says:

          No, we’re on it no worries: http://www.projecthome.org/pdf/news/221.pdf

          • rdclark says:

            These feedings take place in the middle of Philadelphia’s museum district, an area increasingly avoided by tourists and suburban families because of the perception of danger and the general aura of unpleasantness. Museum workers being laid off, reduced revenue for the city and those institutions, food trash everywhere… the City is trying to move these feedings to a less conspicuous location, an initiative resisted by the groups who care more about being seen doing good than about the good being done.

            Everything has consequences.

  3. AtlantaCPA says:

    Could she just distribute them at a public park? That must violate some other law right?

  4. lucyrickyalex says:

    But if we let you feed hungry children, we have to let everybody else feed hungry children…

    /sarcasm

  5. lovemypets00 - You'll need to forgive me, my social filter has cracked. says:

    Hopefully this will garner some attention from the media. She’s trying to help hungry people, for goodness sake, and I give her a lot of credit. Surely charitable acts can be exempted?

    • Banished to the Corner says:

      I read about this yesterday on Foxnews.com, but I didn’t see it on any of the other news sites. Say what you will about Fox, they often have this type of articles posted on the website…it fits with the ‘government runs amok’ and ‘your government at work’ sort of slant.

      I haven’t hit the news yet today, so maybe others have picked it up by now.

  6. dush says:

    Government wants all the money to flow through them. Just pay more taxes and let the government feed the children rather than helping the kids yourself.

  7. snarfies says:

    Here’s more info on the hellhole that is Chester PA: http://www.theburningplatform.com/?tag=chester-pa

  8. energynotsaved says:

    Good grief. This is shameful.

    For years, I helped make PB&Js for inclusion in bag lunches that we distributed in poor areas of the county. The kids received said PB&J, a piece of fruit, a juice box, and some kind of brownie or cookie. We made and distributed under the county non-profit. During the school year, we sent backpacks with food home with the kids for the weekend.

    Hunger is a problem in this country. The last thing a government body should be doing is hurting kids and compounding the problem.

    Vote the idiots out.

  9. TheMansfieldMauler says:

    She must have forgotten to bribe the correct city official.

  10. rdclark says:

    Right, because anybody should be able to do anything they want, anywhere they want to do it because, you know, it’s for the children.

    • Banished to the Corner says:

      Yes, anyone should be able to distribute food for free from a licensed non-profit. She’s distributing meals through a program run by The Archdiocese of Phildelphia. Groups like the Archdiocese, Meals on Wheels, Second Harvest, Churches, etc should be able to distribute food to the hungry without the town, county, city, state, fed, requiring a variance just because you live in a residential neighbohood.

      quote: “The township says Prattis is in violation of zoning codes. She lives in a residential zone where handing out food to children is not allowed.”

      So this township requires that food can only be given to children in industrial zones? What about adults, can you give them food anywhere? That would probably require more variances.

      • crispyduck13 says:

        They should change the wording in their residential zoning laws to allow this sort of thing from a valid non-profit. No one should have to seek a variance or permit.

        • StarKillerX says:

          So you wouldn’t have a problem if the people living next to you turned the house into a soup kitchen?

      • rdclark says:

        Right. The Catholics should be able to do anything they want, anywhere they want because, you know, it’s for the children.

    • Cerne says:

      “Right, because anybody should be able to do anything they want, anywhere they want to do it”

      Yes as long as it doesn’t infringe on the rights of others?

      • rdclark says:

        Such as the people who live next door to the residence to which all these homeless people are being invited? Or, in the other examples that have been raised, the people who want to use the park? The people who work in the museums who get laid off because tourists avoid the museum district where homeless people gather for “feedings?”

        Theae things need to be decided based on doing the least harm. And lawlessness is no more defensible in the service of “good” than of “evil,” because there’s no real consensus on what represents either of those values.

        • Cerne says:

          Did you miss the part of the story where children are being fed or did you just invent an entirely different article in your head?

          • rdclark says:

            Did you miss the part of the story where someone is running a free meals program from a private home in a residential neighborhood?

            Or can you do anything you want anywhere you want as long as you mention “children?”

        • valued_customer says:

          Who the hell is talking about homeless people? This isn’t Oliver. There are many people who rely on feeding programs who are not homeless. Many times these programs operate in a residential area because *it is for the residents*. If you can’t feed your family, you probably don’t have transportation either. You are not about to see soup kitchens popping up in Highhorse Acres.

  11. keith4298 says:

    Sorry, this screams for civil disobedience!

  12. Bob A Dobalina says:

    Translation: we don’t want anyone interfering with making people totally dependent on the gub’mint.

    Plus putting Christians in a good light interferes with the culture war.

  13. Abradax says:

    Fine.

    Don’t distribute the lunches, invite the kids over for a picnic.
    Every day.

    • B Nasty says:

      +1 for you good sir.

      I hope she knows who complained to to the township. If it was me I would upgrade to a picnic every day, complete with watermelon seed spitting aiming right at your house. And a slip n slide, because slip n slides are f*cking awesome.

  14. crispyduck13 says:

    That’s an interesting problem with many angles. Not a consumerist issue, but interesting.

  15. Pete the Geek says:

    The official who was interviewed on the news was essentially saying “we’re just following the rules” while being completely obvious to the fact that rules which cause a charitable organization feeding children to either pay thousands or shut down are ridiculous and should be changed.

  16. Murph1908 says:

    Since nobody has done this so far, I’ll play Devil’s Advocate.

    (Note, I am not agreeing with the township. I just like both sides covered in arguments)

    What if your neighbor started a soup kitchen in his basement, paid for by the arch-diocese of your town? So 3 times a day, you get needy homeless strolling down your street, and lining up in front of your house.

    Isn’t there a better place for her to pass out these free meals? Like, at the church?

    /end DA

    • Jane_Gage says:

      And what if they put a leaflet in all the bag lunches with photographs of aborted fetuses and a tract on how the gays were going to hell?

    • Aliciaz777 says:

      “Oh lawdy, there’s disgusting homeless people outside mah house! Won’t somebody think of the children!?”

      I’d probably be out there handing them bottled water so they didn’t get dehydrated while waiting in the summer heat for their meal. The homeless are people too and don’t deserve to feel like they’re beneath others just because they’re homeless.

      If anything, I get more annoyed by the pack of kids that are constantly yelling and screaming outside my house while they play in the street every day.

    • Cerne says:

      It would depend. The problem with soup kitchens is that homeless people tend to have mental health and substance abuse issues. This can lead to fights, theft and property destruction. That effects my property rights.

      Giving a bagged lunch to hungry kids doesn’t have the same problems.

      • sweaterhogans says:

        THIS. All these bleeding-heart types have probably never lived in Philly and especially not next door to a homeless shelter. I, on the other hand, do and it is dangerous out there. There are a lot of thefts, break ins, and drug dealings around here because of that shelter (and this is the edge of center city). Every day there is some crazy person yelling at someone or at the building.

        There is a school right next to it that was trying to expand and they couldn’t because you can’t relocate homeless shelters in Philly. So now, they kids have to walk through a gauntlet of crackheads and crazy people hollerin’ at ya to get to class. Yeah, I really want these people milling around outside my building.

    • axolotl says:

      Honestly?
      If that happened I’d go next door and help out once in a while, and admire my neighbor a whole lot more. I would probably even stop complaining that his stupid little wiener dog pees on our lawn every day.

      • Jane_Gage says:

        You’ll have more pee than you’d know what to do with if your neighbor opened a soup kitchen.

    • valued_customer says:

      Who the hell is talking about homeless people? This isn’t Oliver. There are many people who rely on feeding programs who are not homeless. Many times these programs operate in a residential area* because it is for the residents. If you can’t feed your family, you probably don’t have transportation either. You are not about to see soup kitchens popping up in Highhorse Acres.

      *i.e. that part of town that you avoid walking and driving through

  17. chizu says:

    Years ago, when the firm I work at moved into our new office, my boss went through a lot of trouble with the local zoning board. We moved into a building that was in the commercial zone, but the building was used as a residential building for as long as it had been there. (The building next to ours and two doors down are both commercials.) Anyway, having to repeal to the zoning board, and getting things approved was a real pain and extremely costly. (Putting in a new parking lot, need new exit signs, railings on the steps that no one ever uses, etc.)

    On top of all these new constructions, they also demanded us to get permits to get work done, but won’t issue them right away and won’t let us move in until we get the permits. Someone on the board actually told my boss to just go ahead and do it because the bureaucratic red tape was ridiculous. After all of those were done — we had another issue. Someone on the board said we needed to get lights out on the driveway and parking lot because it’s a business building and what if someone comes at night! Then someone else on the board rolled their eyes and said this was stupid, because we are an office building that runs from 8-5pm, we do not get visitors, and there’s no reason to put in that much money for something that is so unnecessary.

    Anyway, the short version is that — zoning laws are there for a reason/guideline. But there are plenty of idiots serving on the board and they could all use a bit of common sense and be a human being.

  18. Aliciaz777 says:

    Why does everything have to be so damn complicated all the time? Kids can’t even have lemonade stands anymore without getting a permit from the city, and now people can’t feed hungry children and families without paying fees and filling out paperwork. What’s going on? Where the hell did humanity go?

    Every weekend I drive downtown and give a few groups of homeless people home cooked meals. These people have come to depend on me for these few real meals they get every month. Am I to expect now that one of these days I’ll be stopped by cops or something and told I could hit with fines if I continue to do it? Screw that. I’m helping my fellow human beings and I’ll be damned if the city is going to get money out of me for it.

  19. Cerne says:

    I’m with the town here. Obviously this woman is one of history’s greatest monsters.

    Ok that’s hyperbole, but she is clearly the worst criminal in the Philadelphia area .

  20. Cacao says:

    She just needs to find the loophole. Come on, rich people and corporations use them all the time.

    • oldwiz65 says:

      That’s because the rich people and corporations are very heavily involved in writing the laws in the first place, so they are smart enough to write in loopholes to benefit themselves.

  21. deadbirds says:

    It’s beginning to look a lot like class-warfare around the USofA!

  22. oldwiz65 says:

    Typical of governments that care more for rules than for actually helping people. It’s a disgrace that governments make it difficult to actually help people in need. The government should be encouraging such charity, not making it impossible. $1000 to apply? Do they know hw many meals that would provide? It’s not like they are taking business from established restaurants or stores.

    If I lived in that town I would be ashamed.

  23. valued_customer says:

    Shame the crap out of these government employees and hope that they have to one day bring their children to a place where mommy and daddy have to ask a nice person to give them food.

  24. consumerd says:

    Sad….. Just…Sad….. That’s all I can say.

  25. spamtasticus says:

    We are from the government and are here to help.