Despite some previous opposition, re-zoning a large house in Swarthmore to be used as a group residence for cancer patients won unanimous approval last night from the Borough Council.
The HeadStrong foundation will renovate the home to be a temporary residence for up to seven cancer patients. Council approved the plans provided that parking, fire, and accessibility plans are brought up to code, and no more than 14 people stay at the property at once. The new zoning designation will not be tied to the land parcel. If the house changes hands, it will go back to being considered a residential property.
Cheryl Colleleuri ‘s son Nick founded the HeadStrong foundation before succumbing to Nonhodgkins lymphoma 10 years ago. The foundation works to improve the quality of life for patients through housing and community building. She says the conditions imposed by the council are no problem.
“We had already met with the fire marshal and the borough making sure that what our intentions were within the requirements. Just to be able to bring this to life, it’s incredible,” said Colleleuri.
Tom O’Donnell lives two blocks away from the property. He says most neighbors are excited to welcome patients. “When someone is sitting on the porch while they’re undergoing a pretty difficult time, I’m certain that someone will come by to share a good word and keep them company,” he said.
Although the majority of people came out in support of the house, there were some neighbors who opposed the new zoning. Chris Reynolds, the editor of the local paper the Swarthmorean, says online comment sections of his paper and the Delaware County Daily Times made the controversy seem bigger than it was.
“The comments were really off the mark,” he said. “A lot of them I think came from outside Swarthmore and characterized Swarthmore as being a snooty, uncharitable place, and it really couldn’t be further from the truth.”
The Borough Council did not take additional public testimony at the hearing and some of the neighbors who had questioned the proposal left the meeting quickly after it ended.
The HeadStrong foundation will dedicate the home to its founder Nick Hofstra, with plans to open as soon as this spring.