August 9, 2008

Sex-Offender Appeal Vowed

By Robinson, Ryan

Unfazed by a decision against him Wednesday night, Tom Armstrong this morning vowed to fight the latest ruling so he can continue to house three convicted sex offenders in his Marietta house. "I am going to appeal and I'm going to win the appeal," the former state representative said. "The ordinance clearly states up to four unrelated people are allowed. This is nonsense."

Marietta Borough's zoning officer, Mark Harman, issued Armstrong a cease-and-desist notice June 18, ordering him to move the sex offenders from his 704 E. Market St. home.

Armstrong appealed that order.

On Wednesday, the Marietta Zoning Hearing Board ruled after three hours of testimony that Armstrong's housing of the men in his large Victorian home did violate borough rules.

Armstrong said that when he gets the official notice of that decision, he will appeal it, too.

Borough attorney Shawn Long of Barley Snyder did not return a call this morning for comment.

Wednesday night, he described Armstrong's relationship to the men as a business arrangement, pointing out that each man pays $100 a week to live in the house.

Armstrong's attorney, Jim Clymer, argued that Armstrong has long housed three or more veterans at once over the past 18 years without interference from the borough.

Clymer also said that the borough's ordinance allows families to reside in the historic residential zone and that Armstrong welcomed the men into his home as a family, sharing expenses, cooking, yard work and other responsibilities, just like any other family.

The borough's own ordinance includes the definition of a family as up to four unrelated individuals sharing a common household, Clymer said.

Long argued that there is no Megan's Law Web site for veterans, so that comparison does not stand up, and if Armstrong were housing veterans now, that too would violate the borough's zoning ordinance.

Long said several Pennsylvania court decisions disallow similar boarding situations in residential areas for drug addicts, alcoholics and even abused children.

The Megan's Law Web site,, lists home addresses of the state's registered sex offenders.

Marietta residents had called Harman to complain about the sex offenders. Harman confirmed they were living with Armstrong by checking the site.

Armstrong first rented housing in Conestoga Township for the men earlier this summer. Township officials there ordered them moved out because the township's zoning does not permit boarding houses.

Today, Armstrong said he wants to house the men in his home only until a permanent place can be found for them.

He said several people have offered him use of their properties for such a home, but nothing has yet been arranged.

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