Sunday, October 23, 2016

Another Zoning Dispute, Another Fair Housing Complaint; City Gets Belted With Lawsuit Over Its Refusal To Grant Building Permit To Non-Profit Group To Construct 4-Bedroom Single Family Home To House Three Unrelated Adults With Intellectual/Developmental Disabilities

In New Albany, Indiana, WSCH Radio 99.3 FM reports:
  • A zoning dispute has led to a lawsuit accusing the City of Lawrenceburg of discriminating against people with disabilities.

    The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana filed the lawsuit on behalf of New Horizons Rehabilitation, Inc. against the city [] in U.S. District Court in New Albany.

    New Horizons is a Batesville-based non-profit that provides job training, day services, home and respite care, and support services for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities throughout southeast Indiana.

    New Horizons already operates five homes for disabled people in the region. In 2013, the organization was donated property in Lawrenceburg with the understanding that a home for individuals with disabilities would be built on the site zoned R-1 for “single, two, and multi family residential,” according to the city zoning code. The planned four-bedroom home would provide housing for three unrelated, disabled adults.

    “The home would not need any additional parking or anything else different than the other single-family residences in the neighborhood and would be indistinguishable from those residences,” the eight-page complaint states.

    In 2014, the builder hired by New Horizons to build the home sought the proper building permits from the City of Lawrenceburg. When the city’s zoning director learned of the home’s purpose, he told New Horizons that the home was considered a “four-unit boarding house/medical facility”.(1)

    The organization was asked to seek a variance from the Lawrenceburg Advisory Plan Commission. New Horizons officials and attorneys attempted to persuade the zoning director and city attorney over the past two years that the home would not be a boarding facility, but the city has maintained its position.

    “Individuals with developmental and intellectual disabilities are people first, and they have the right to live, work, play and have fun in the community of their choice, just like everyone else,” Marie E. Dausch, executive director of New Horizons, said in an ACLU news release. “We are in an era of full inclusion for everyone in our communities and cultures. Discrimination is not a part of this, especially by government officials.”

    New Horizons has not taken a variance request to the city’s plan commission.

    The ACLU says Lawrenceburg is in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, the Rehabilitation Act, the Fair Housing Amendments Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and Indiana law.
For the story, see ACLU, New Horizons Lawsuit Accuses Lawrenceburg Of Discrimination Against Disabled.

For the lawsuit, see New Horizons Rehabilitation, Inc. v. City of Lawrenceburg, Indiana.
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(1) See Lawrenceburg sued for allegedly discriminating against people with disabilities in zoning issue:
  • The ACLU is challenging that directive in court, saying Indiana Code 12-28-4-8 protects the construction of a supported living home in a single-family residential zoning district.

    That portion of the state code specifically reads, “A residential facility for individuals with a developmental disability: for not more than eight individuals with a developmental disability…is a permitted residential use that may not be disallowed by any zoning ordinance in a zoning district or classification that permits residential use.”

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