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Transitional home zoning examined

Rooming houses might not be allowed in residential areas
By: Stephanie Dumm News Messenger Reporter
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The existence of an adult residential facility in Twelve Bridges has spurred the city to look at amending part of a zoning ordinance. The recommendation to amend a section of the municipal code that describes how land can be used in multiple-family residential zones was approved during Wednesday night's planning commission meeting, according to planning commission chairman Vic Freeman, and it was also decided that homes cannot have three or more people renting rooms in single-family and low-density residential areas. “When the adult residential facility issue cropped up a few weeks back, we looked at the ordinance, and saw in 2004, that we had adopted an ordinance regulating these types of facilities,” said George Dellwo, the city’s assistant director of development services, on Tuesday. Dellwo was referring to public outcry during the Oct. 26 City Council meeting over a home on Letterkenny Lane, where two mental-health outpatients lived, according to previous News Messenger reports. One resident, a registered sex offender, moved out of the house on Oct. 29, according to previous News Messenger reports. The Planning Commission was asked by city staff to review the ordinance’s amendment and decide whether to recommend the amendment to City Council. The News Messenger asked Dellwo if the amendment would impact the adult residential facility. “It won’t,” Dellwo said. “It’s my understanding that the individual that presently has the facility is looking to potentially move.” According to a memorandum for the item on the planning commission’s agenda, “the definitions were inadvertently deleted” by city staff during an amendment of the code in 2005. Dellwo said without the definition, the city may not “have the authority to regulate those types of uses,” which are the boarding houses, rooming houses and lodges. “It could be argued that we do but we are just making sure that we do,” Dellwo said. The proposed amended chapter defines rooming houses, boarding houses and lodges as “a residence or dwelling, other than a hotel, wherein three or more rooms (or living areas used or arranged to function as rooms) with or without individual or group cooking areas, are rented to individuals under separate, oral or written rental agreements or leases, whether or not an owner, agent or property manager is in residence.” The memorandum also says that “the City Council finds that the operation of commercial uses such as rooming houses in residential zones is detrimental to the maintenance and the character of residential neighborhoods.” Rooming houses, boarding houses and lodges are not allowed in single-family and low-density residential areas or duplex residential district, according to the memorandum. “They are considered a commercial use and would be disruptive to single-family residential areas,” Dellwo said. “Typically, when you have a commercial enterprise, there are a lot of vehicles associated with them.” Mayor Tom Cosgrove told The News Messenger on Monday what the original purpose of the ordinance dealing with boarding homes was. “The reason that it’s in there in the first place is because when there were a lot of homes being sold, people were buying homes and then renting out the rooms,” Cosgrove said. “We had concerns from a cul-de-sac that a couple of homes were treated as boarding homes, and per house, there were five to six cars and our response then was to adopt a boarding house ordinance.” As for the transitional home on Letterkenny Lane, Cosgrove said a meeting was held last week between residents on Letterkenny street, the homeowner and the person in charge of the mental-health outpatient program who had placed the mental-health outpatients in the home. “The city acted as a facilitator, we made it pretty clear what our role can be and that was to act as facilitator,” Cosgrove said. “It was a very civil discussion. The homeowners, property owner and person running the program all agreed that they want to find a solution, and in that respect, I thought it (the meeting) was worthwhile.” A solution to the problem was not agreed to during the meeting, however. “I don’t think this meeting was intended to arrive at a solution as much as was to hear and listen to each other,” Cosgrove said.