City planning commissioners are slated to consider a scaled back plan of a previously rejected sober living home in an upscale neighborhood next to London Bridge Golf Course.
The Lake Havasu City Planning and Zoning Commission will decide Wednesday whether to recommend a conditional use permit for a nine-bed residential care home for men referred to as Redmon House at 575 Player Lane, a cul-de-sac in a residential estates zoning district. The commission meets at 9 a.m. Wednesday in the city council chambers, 2360 N. McCulloch Blvd.
Last December, plans for up to 15-beds at the home were rejected by planning commissioners in a 5-2 vote after more than two hours and 30 speakers addressed the issue. The home’s owner and director of the nonprofit sober living home, Skip Walker, did not appeal that decision to the City Council.
“(With the reduction of residents) I’ve addressed all possibly valid concerns of the neighborhood about traffic and density,” Walker said.
Even though the city staff report didn’t cite concerns about traffic in the previous proposal, Walker said he decided to cut his proposal by more than half (he previously sought approval for up to 20 beds, but altered that to 15 the day of the planning commission’s vote last December) to nine beds to address residents’ concerns.
Friday, Walker said he doesn’t see anything left that he could do differently, and he believes that those opposed are NIMBY (not in my backyard) people or misinformed about how a sober living home functions.
It’s not a treatment center, Walker said. A sober living home is a family-like atmosphere where the residents support each other in staying free of alcohol and drugs, he said. They eat together, cook together, shop together and go to the movies together, he added.
Residents are randomly drug tested and in some cases that could be daily, Walker said. The residents are tested three to four days before they are allowed into the home, which doesn’t accept everyone who applies, he said.
Generally, residents who don’t follow the rules, including failing drug tests, are kicked out, but there are modifications sometimes, Walker said.
“What is the fear in the neighborhood of people who are not drinking and not drugging,” Walker said. There have been no police calls to the home that has been in operation at five or fewer residents, which it is allowed to do without planning commission approval, since he has owned the home at the beginning of 2012, he added
“The whole thing comes down to NIMBY,” Walker said.
When the board rejected Walker’s proposed sober living home in December, that was in line with city planning staff’s recommendation stating in general terms that the proposed use was a high density use in a low density neighborhood.
This time around, the city’s Senior Planner Stuart Schmeling, is recommending that Walker’s proposal for up to nine beds be approved because it meets the conditions for a conditional use permit and is a typically sized (number of occupants) residential care home.
But several individuals who live nearby or simply are concerned about the proposal already have submitted letters to the city opposing the sober living home’s expansion of up to nine beds.
Some said the sober living home would lead to property values declining, increased traffic, compromised safety and more such group home type operations in the neighborhood. Some residents sent more than one letter stating their concerns.
Walker said he has evidence of more than 50 studies that show property values aren’t depressed when a sober living home starts operating in a neighborhood. That can change when more than one residential care home operation, including a sober living home, is in a neighborhood, he conceded.
Concerns about traffic are overblown, Walker said. More traffic is created in the neighborhood by people doing landscaping work, painting, cleaning and remodeling, he added.
“I personally believe that such facilities constitute a business entity and should be established only on properties that are zoned for business use, not residential,” said James Hakeem, a resident in the 1300 block of Wilson Drive.
“If (residential) is not the right place for a sober living home, where is the right place then,” said Walker of his nonprofit operation. The amount of drug activity in commercial or industrial areas is higher and not attractive locations for a sober living home, he said.
Others opposed to the project referred to the city’s plans for a future review of zoning ordinances and that there should be a moratorium on conditional use permits until the zoning rules are changed.
At a planning commission meeting earlier this month, Schmeling said that a review of zoning ordinances was planned, but that all projects submitted to the city deserved to be considered in a timely manner.
If planning commissioners recommend approval, the matter will be heard by the City Council at a future meeting. If commissioners reject Walker’s plan, he could appeal that decision to the City Council.
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