A residence on Barkalow Avenue may become the future home for Opportunity Knocks, a group home for mentally disabled persons, and according to the Freehold Borough Code Enforcement Office, the municipality doesn't have much say in the matter.
“As long as the application meets all required criteria the state statute will supersede any town law,” said Henry Styker, Freehold Borough Code Enforcement director.
Borough attorneys are currently reviewing a zoning application for Opportunity Knocks; if approved, a zoning application can be issued, explained Styker.
While state laws allow group homes to rent properties, in an email to Patch, Marc LeVine, a resident of Barkalow Avenue and former councilman explained how he felt that the group home was trying to “sneak" onto the street.
“Personally, I advocate for the developmentally disabled and welcome the eventual residents to my street. They have a right to live a good life in a nice place, as do we all,” said LeVine in his email. He continued by saying, “The residents of Barkalow Avenue had a right to know this in advance and exercise their right to speak out on this if they so chose to. This remains their right and as a new neighbor, Opportunity Knocks had not started off on the right foot here.”
According to the State of New Jersey Department of Human Services, group homes do not have to inform communities that they are moving into a neighborhood.
Homes for people with disabilities share the same rights as everyone else in choosing where to live. The Federal Fair Housing Act, originally created to protect the rights of minority groups to live where they choose, was extended in 1988 to specifically include people with disabilities. Everyone benefits from this right and all of us have an obligation to abide by this federal law protecting our right to live where we choose, without discrimination.
An email request for comment sent to Opportunity Knock but has not yet been returned.