CORAL SPRINGS, FL – For years, the City of Coral Springs has pushed for more local authority to control the placement of recovery residences in the city.

Coral Springs even drafted a proposed bill that was sent to the State Legislature requiring all recovery residences to voluntarily be certified for “good neighbor policies” and other matters through a state recovery residences association.

The legislation didn’t pass, but the “City will continue to champion this effort until changes are made on a state level.”

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That’s what was written in an email letter from the city to at least one residents of the Hills neighborhood, where a substance abuse treatment center has opened two residential homes for its clients (9000 block of NW 39 Court and 4000 block of NW 101 Drive) and plans to open two more homes (9000 block of NW 40 Street and 4200 block of NW 100 Avenue).  

The Aug. 19 letter from Luwam Ghermay, administrative manager for the city commission office, was sent around the time a group of residents from the community urged the commission to block the opening of any more homes for clients of Legacy Healing Center in Margate.

The letter also explained that the city’s zoning laws do not allow for recovery residences to operate in residential zoning districts.

However, Coral Springs is “preempted” by federal Fair Housing Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act laws from preventing those homes in certain circumstances.

Those laws, the letter said, require “government agencies to make reasonable accommodations to afford individuals with disabilities equal opportunity to use and enjoy housing. These protections extend to those in recovery.”

According to the letter, in the city, reasonable accommodation decisions are made by a special magistrate, whose decisions are final and appealable directly to the circuit court.

A city such as Coral Springs can only deny an accommodation, the letter said, if it causes an “undue financial or administrative burden, or it fundamentally affects the city’s zoning scheme.”

Some Hills residents opposed to the Legacy Healing houses have argued that by having four houses within a half-mile or so of each other is a “cluster” that impacts the zoning, and so the additional two houses shouldn’t be allowed to open. 

“We live in a family-oriented neighborhood, and this is changing the neighborhood because of additional traffic and population,” said Jonathan Korb, a resident of the Hills community.

Legacy Healing’s director of strategic planning and quality assurance, Jim Devine, said his center will seek accommodations for the new houses in the near future. He said Coral Springs’ process is “straightforward,” “fair,” and “honest.”  

In the legislative bill Coral Springs was advocating for, the city wanted recovery residences to be certified through Florida Association of Recovery Residences (FARR).

According to the letter, the voluntary certification process places requirements on recovery residence facilities, including requiring background checks of owners and directors and “good neighbor policies (including requiring there be no external indications that the property is anything other than a single-family household typical of its neighborhood).”

The letter ends by encouraging residents to reach out to state representatives “to discuss your concerns related to recovery residences and support of the proposed bill we drafted, requiring all recovery residences to be FARR certified.”

 

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