Friday, January 6, 2017

The debate in Swarthmore continues

The debate is not over in Swarthmore.

That is not always a good thing.

And not for the reason you might think.

Let me try to explain.

It's right there on our front page this morning.

Some neighbors have filed an appeal of the borough's ruling allowing the HEADStrong Foundation to use a home they purchased on South Chester Road as a temporary residence for cancer patients and their care givers while they are in the region to get treatment.

Let me make one thing perfectly clear. These residents have every right to file their objection.

They don't see this as the emotional, passionate argument that most view it. They consider it a fairly routine borough zoning matter, one they don't necessarily agree with, and one they believe will set a dangerous precedent for future developments in the borough.

HEADStrong, which was founded by star Ridley athlete Nick Colleluori as a way of fighting back against the cancer that eventually took his life, got an initial accommodation from the borough allowing the use of the house at 200 South Chester Road.

A few neighbors objected and appealed to borough council. The council voted unanimously to allow the use. Now the neighbors are appealing to county court. They are perfectly within their rights to do so.

Unfortunately, not everyone likes - let alone agrees - with their position.

That's OK, we're never going to agree with every issue in our communities.

Of course today, that disagreement takes on a whole different element - and tone.

As soon as the story hit our website and Facebook page last night, the neighbors who filed the appeal came under a withering social media attack. This is what we do these days when we don't agree with someone's position. We go online and trash them.

In particular one neighbor, one who was brave enough to actually lay out the reasons why she was opposing HEADStrong in an op-ed piece that we published, became the target of these online commenters.

In short, it did not take it very long to turn very ugly.

I have to admit that I play a role in this. That is our Facebook page that provides this kind of forum. I don't always like it. I try to monitor it and weed out some of what is clearly offensive commentary.

The story now will move to the Swarthmore Borough Council meeting Monday night, where the appeal no doubt will pop up again.

It likely will be done so in an orderly manner.

As opposed to what will happen online.

As I said, the debate in Swarthmore is not over.

And no, that is not always a good thing.

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