The Capital Zoning District Commission voted last week to seek an attorney general’s opinion on whether the group home operating at 20th and Broadway meets federal fair housing rules.
The commission deferred its vote on a conditional use permit being sought for the home, which houses 10 men in recovery from drugs and alcohol and a couple that manages the house. The house is operated by the Muskie Harris Recovery Service, a non-profit recently incorporated by the former Razorback football player and former GOP candidate for lieutenant governor.
Federal and state law considers recovering alcoholics and drug users as disabled, which means the district can’t regulate the group homes more strictly than it does other group homes for the handicapped as long as they meeting zoning rules on square footage, bedrooms, bathrooms, etc.
The home opened without getting a conditional use permit first, as required. The CZD found out about the home through callers complaining about the number of men living there together. Normally, the district learns about new businesses from the city, which relays privilege license information to it. However, non-profits are not required to buy the license.
The CZD staff has recommended approval of the permit as long as it meets zoning laws and verifies on an annual basis that it is keeping the property well-maintained and that no persons convicted of illegal manufacture or sale of drugs be housed there.
Both the Governor’s Mansion District Advisory Committee and the Downtown Neighborhood Association have asked the CDZ not to approve the permit. Sharon Welch-Blair, chair of the DNA, said in an interview last week that the area’s economic recovery is too fragile to support a group home.