VEIN, W.Va. (WTAP) – Vienna’s City Council unanimously passed a regulation last week regulating the operation of treatment facilities for drug addicts in the area. Another ordinance regulating group dwellings was also passed, but with some resistance.
WTAP received both sides of the group housing order, which passed the first reading four to three.
The ordinance will set rules for group residences, such as requiring them to register with the city and follow regulations, such as limiting the number of residents to 12 or one person per square foot of home interior, whichever is less, not including staff.
Mayor Rapp of Vienna said: “So one of the things we are asking is that you have to be certified. You have to have some kind of evidence from the government to say that you followed certain restrictions, certain guidelines, so that you continue to help these people, and secondly, you exercised some oversight regarding restrictions on accommodation and such. “.
Other rules include, but are not limited to, staying at least 1,500 feet from other group residences, requiring homes to report any deaths, serious injuries, or emergency response personnel.
Rapp said: “If you have a rehab home or something like that, there have to be rules. There must be someone in charge. There must be someone watching this group of strangers who were thrown into living quarters without any responsibility.”
The ordinance also prohibits a house from having a sign or any other external indication that it is a group residence that can be seen from the street. Group homes must also comply with applicable safety regulations such as fire safety. They must also comply with all off-city parking requirements. It will also prohibit group homes from hosting anyone who poses a direct threat to the safety of others or causes significant damage to people’s property.
Rapp, who voted in favor of the measure, said that while it’s important for people to get the help they need, it needs to be done in a safe way.
However, not everyone agreed with this measure.
Kim Williams was one of the votes against.
“I was very concerned that the ruling discriminated against people,” she said.
Williams said the ordinance would discriminate against people with disabilities. It indicates how group dwellings are defined in the ordinance.
Literally, it reads: “For the purposes of this article, a “group residence” means a building owned, rented or occupied by persons with developmental or behavioral disabilities for the purpose of creating personal housing.”
Williams said, “You can’t single out people on the basis of a disability and put different restrictions or conditions on them that you don’t put on people who don’t have a disability.”
Williams believes this violates the Fair Housing Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act.
She also worries the ruling will apply to veterans with PTSD, foster families with disabled children, and other situations.
Rapp does not believe the city will break any laws, saying officials have spoken to legal representatives.
He said, “…it doesn’t mean that just because you have a disabled child or a disabled spouse or whatever, you should be subject to these rules. This is not the purpose of this ordinance. And so there is a lot of language. This language that we have taken is taken directly from the state code, and therefore we are sure that we are not violating any of them.”
After the interview, Rapp contacted zoning officials and clarified that the ordinance does not apply to families.
Rapp acknowledged that problems can arise under various circumstances, but notes that the ruling provides for an appeal procedure for special cases.
He also said that the specific parameters of who exactly will have to register and follow the instructions listed in the decree have not yet been determined.
Rapp also clarified that the wording of the ruling does not explicitly state that the rules are for businesses because some organizations are not officially registered as businesses but operate as businesses.
WTAP also spoke to other dissenting City Council voters.
Council member Christopher Mancuso voted against the ordinance. He believes the ruling is discriminatory and fears prosecution.
Williams shares the same concern.
She said: “We put ourselves at a disadvantage by losing the lawsuit and all the consequences of that, including the loss of HUD funding…”
Council member Melissa Elam also voted against the measure. She said that the sacrament has no teeth, so it looks like an empty gesture. She does not believe that the local government has the authority to enforce the ordinance under state and federal law, specifically the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Fair Housing Act.
Elam does not consider this ruling to be discriminatory. However, she believes that the consequences could be discriminatory due to the language used in the ruling.
She expected that the amendments would likely be put on second reading.
The second reading of the ordinance will take place at a city council meeting next Thursday.
Parkersburg recently passed similar rulings and has faced opposition from a disability advocacy group that promises to take legal action.
Wendy Tuck was the only vote against on the Parkersburg City Council who took part in the vote.
Another regulation, which will also be submitted for second reading at the Vienna City Council meeting next Thursday, is the regulation on residential treatment facilities for drug addicts, which was unanimously adopted in the first reading. Mayor Rapp explained that he would replace the moratorium if it was passed in the final reading.
The moratorium expires June 30th.
Last year, the city government asked for a year to figure out the rules. Rapp said the hope was for the state legislature to offer leadership, but the city hasn’t received much help from the state.
The Treatment Institutions Ordinance regulates where drug addiction treatment facilities can be located.
By ordinance, they must be at least 250 feet from a residential area, 500 feet from a public or parochial school, and at least 100 feet from any other drug treatment facility.
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