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Neighbors Learn Federal Laws Protect New Residents
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
July 18, 2003

MARYVILLE, TENNESSEE--Some Maryville residents learned Thursday night that people with mental disabilities cannot be kept out of their neighborhoods because of federal and state laws that protect their right to live in the community, according to the Daily Times.

The Maryville Board of Zoning Appeals met to hear concerns about D&S Residential Services, a residential program that plans to serve people with disabilities at three homes in the area. At the urging of the city's planning department, D&S had filed a request for a special exception to the city's zoning laws in order to have a public hearing and educate local residents about the laws.

"Rather than go to the court system and fight it out, I felt as a proactive solution it would be better to file for the request," said John King, the attorney who represents D&S.

Some residents had complained about the D&S plan, worried that the homes -- which would support a maximum of three people each -- would bring down their own property values, that the neighborhoods would have increased traffic, and that the neighborhoods would no longer be safe for young children.

City Attorney Melanie Davis explained to the audience that state and federal anti-discrimination law protects the rights of people with disabilities to live in their communities regardless of local zoning ordinance that might try to restrict where and how they live.

Donna Stevens defended the people D&S serves, especially to those neighbors who are afraid they might display criminal behavior.

"How many of your neighbors do you know that have felonies?" Stevens asked.

"(D&S clients) have a right to live in our community, just like everybody else. Why are they being held to different standards?"

The board finally voted 3-2 to not require D&S to obtain a special exception.

Related articles:
Homeowner opposes group home in neighborhood (Maryville Daily Times)
"BZA says it can't ban group homes" (Maryville Daily Times)


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