Panel Loosens Group Home Distance Restrictions
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
February 23, 2006
MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN--A Milwaukee zoning committee agreed Wednesday to allow more group homes and adult family homes for people with disabilities to be developed without having to seek special approval.
The Common Council's Zoning, Neighborhoods and Development Committee voted unanimously to drop a three-decades old rule that required such facilities to be spaced at least 2,500 feet, or about one-half mile, from existing licensed community facilities. The measure goes before the entire council for a vote on February 28, the Journal Sentinel reported.
The change only affects homes with eight or fewer residents that have physical or developmental disabilities. Larger homes, and those housing people involved in illegal drug use or chemical addition, would still need to seek an exemption.
Owners of group homes and community advocates had protested the old zoning rule, arguing that the restriction violated residents' rights under the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act and federal housing laws.
The shift in recent years from institutions to community residential programs has meant that nearly 200 such homes are scattered across Milwaukee County, and that new facilities have often had to go before the board to seek an exemption.
Several aldermen expressed concerns that giving up control of where the homes are placed could negatively impact neighborhoods that are already becoming "saturated" with group homes. For that reason, the committee agreed to require group homes operators to give advance notice, so that the public would have a chance to comment.
Brian Peters, a housing program coordinator with Independence First, who spoke through a sign language interpreter, said such notification requirements would amount to discrimination.
"Would you be notified of other kind of minority groups moving in?"
"Group home zoning change backed" (Journal Sentinel)
"City To Loosen Group Home Zoning Rules" January 25, 2006 (Inclusion Daily Express Archives)