Neighbors Cannot Keep Out Group Home Residents, Court
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
January 6, 2003
LAKELAND, FLORIDA--Neighbors cannot keep a couple from using their house as a group home, the 2nd District Court of Appeal ruled last week.
The decision allows Charles and Suzanne Dornbach to support between four and six people with developmental disabilities in their Winter Haven neighborhood home, the Ledger newspaper reported.
Neighbors Louis and Janet Holley filed a lawsuit against the couple in September 2000 to keep the Dornbachs from turning the home they had purchased three months earlier into a group home. A Polk Circuit Judge ruled in the case last year that a group home would violate the neighborhood deed restrictions against businesses.
But the appeals court overturned that decision, ruling that federal and state housing laws protect group homes -- often considered single-family residences -- from such local zoning ordinances.
"I think it's vital to any community for everybody to have an acceptance of people who may be different, and I don't think you can gain that acceptance and that understanding without communities being integrated," said Charlene Vocelle, development director for Sunrise Community of Polk County, which operates four residential homes and two training centers.