City Officials Defend Group Home Approval
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
December 21, 2005
ST. CLAIRSVILLE, OHIO--It would appear that the City of St. Clairsville's law director and planning and zoning administrator were the only people at a contentious Monday night council meeting to defend the right of people with intellectual disabilities to live in a proposed group home.
According to the Wheeling News-Register, several dozen angry residents in the neighborhood showed up to protest the city's approval of plans for Care Properties to build a group home to house to eight adults. Many were upset that they were not informed earlier of the plans, and expressed fears that their property values would go down.
St. Clairsville Law Director Al Davies told the crowd that the home -- which would cost an estimated $285,000 to build -- is considered a family structure, which is permitted in any zoned area under the law.
"We can't discriminate against any individuals, whether they're black, white, yellow, green, mentally retarded or developmentally challenged," said Davies.
Tom Murphy, the city's planning and zoning administrator, said that if they had notified neighbors, the city could have faced a discrimination lawsuit.
"If it's a permitted use, there are no notification requirements," said Murphy, who added that the home's future residents are protected under federal and state laws.
The council finally agreed to request a meeting with Care Properties owner Ray Anderson to discuss the neighbors' concerns. But Davies advised the city to avoid taking any action that would be seen as restricting the rights of the for-profit or the home's would-be residents.
"The city should not take part in anything that could be interpreted as discrimination," he said. "It's my job to protect the city from potential liability."
When members of the crowd asked what legal options they had, Davies told them they could go to the state's licensing authority to challenge the facility's use. He warned them, however, that similar challenges in other communities -- including one that made it to the Ohio Supreme Court -- had been unsuccessful.
"Some St. C Residents Oppose Group Home" (Wheeling News-Register)