Bel Air bill will allow group homes for addicts

July 13, 1999|By Lisa Respers | Lisa Respers,SUN STAFF

The Bel Air Board of Town Commissioners passed unanimously an amended version of a bill that would have banned group homes for drug addicts and alcoholics in residential areas.

The amended version will allow the group homes for recovering addicts and alcoholics.

Opponents of the original bill had complained that it violated the Federal Fair Housing Act by denying those in recovery the right to live in neighborhoods.

"We really were trying to make sure that we met all of the fairness criteria in our ordinance," said Board Chairman Stephen C. Burdette. "There should be no reason to challenge this legislation."

The board voted last night to change the prohibitive language as well as expand the definition of a family by including the wording "eight persons in recovery for drug, alcohol and/or similar addictions residing together in order to receive counseling and other rehabilitative services."

The ordinance had been hotly debated in the town as residents turned out to voice concern over a possible proliferation of group homes after three were opened in one neighborhood by Maryland Recovery Partners Inc.

The company had threatened to file suit if the bill was passed, noting a Supreme Court decision which said group homes could not be excluded from residential areas.

Town Commissioner David E. Carey said last night that officials waded through several opinions, including the Supreme Court case, to produce the bill's final language.

"I think we struck a fair balance between the needs of the recovery community and the needs of our citizens while staying within the confines of the law," Carey said.

Sharon Krevor-Weisbaum, an attorney for Maryland Recovery Partners, said she and the company were pleased with the bill's final version.

"We are glad the town took the time to listen to us," Krevor-Weisbaum said. "I think they now better understand the needs of those in recovery and their need to live in group homes and to be treated as a family."

Pub Date: 7/13/99

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