Letters to the Editor

What Next for Sober Houses?

To the editor,

As Yogi Berra famously said: “It’s déjà vu all over again.”

As reported in the Jan. 25 edition of Yorktown News, 482 Underhill Ave. is back in the sober house business, this time operating as a “family,” not a convalescent, home. And because it’s operating as a family home, there are no town regulations, standards, guidelines or conditions governing its use, even though it’s a for-profit business operating out of a single-family dwelling.

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Yorktown’s zoning code is flexible. It allows businesses to operate in residential dwellings, e.g., professional offices, daycare facilities, boarding houses, but with a special permit that gives the approving board the ability to review the proposed use for issues like traffic, parking, screening from adjacent houses, noise, etc., and set appropriate conditions that protect the community at large while allowing the business to operate.

But when a sober house operates as a “family,” there’s no requirement for a special permit. Hence, no review and no ability for the town to oversee a myriad important land use issues.

As a community, we certainly need to do as much as we can to address the addiction problem. And I believe there’s a place in the addiction care continuum for facilities like sober houses. Ideally, these facilities should be regulated by the state; alas, in New York, they’re not. And horror stories of poorly run sober houses are sadly all too common.

In 2015, in an effort to learn from the town’s first experience with a sober house, I worked with the building inspector to draft an amendment to the zoning code to regulate what I tentatively called a “community care facility.” Unfortunately, I couldn’t get the support of a majority of the Town Board to even consider the proposal or hold a public hearing.

Maybe it’s time for the new Town Board to revisit the issue. The text of the proposed amendment is still in my computer.



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