Scottsdale ‘sober home’ regulation talks continue at Via Linda

A public meeting was held Thursday, April 27 at the Via Linda Senior Center in Scottsdale. (Independent Newsmedia/Terrance Thornton)

About 50 souls attended a Thursday, April 27 open house at the Via Linda Senior Center where Scottsdale officials outlined possible next steps in local efforts to curtail neighborhood concerns surrounding sober-living facilities.

Following a brief overview from senior-level Scottsdale planning staff, which included both Scottsdale Planning and Development director Randy Grant and Planner Greg Bloemberg, residents voiced myriad concerns ranging from lewd behavior to general operations.

The Via Linda Senior Center is at 10440 E. Via Linda.

Municipal leaders across Arizona say regulation of sober-living facilities is a malaise of legality, but local jurisdictions are entitled — through both state and federal law — to regulate the operations within a sober-living facility.

A sober-living facility, or sober home, as classified by both state and federal guidelines, seeks to help drug and alcohol addicts achieve sobriety and reintegrate into society at large. The 1968 Fair Housing Act was created to eliminate discrimination, allowing housing choices for all Americans despite, among other things, race, color, religious preference or gender.

Fueling regulation pursuits here in Arizona was the adoption of HB 2107, which provides legal framework to provide checks and balances to who is inside and how a sober-living facility is allowed to operate.

In addition to Arizona law, a U.S. representative hailing from California, Rep. Darrell Issa, introduced HR 472 — which is coined the “safe recovery and community empowerment act — seeks to amend the Fair Housing Act to no longer prohibiting certain control measures.

A bill summary of the proposed legislation, which was referred to the Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice on Feb. 6, outlines certain provisions including:

  •  A requirement of a reasonable minimum distance between sober-living facilities within a particular area zoned for residential housing if it is deemed necessary to preserve the residential character of the area;
  • A requirement that such a facility obtain an operating license or use permit or satisfy a set of consumer protection standards, which may include a maximum capacity requirement.

Rep. Issa did not respond to a request for comment, but Scottsdale Councilman Guy Phillips did.

The Scottsdale Independent reached out to the councilman to better understand how he interprets the provisions within HR 471 and to learn how he views the growing confusion and frustration of walking the line in local neighborhoods. This is what he had to say:

Guy Phillips

Questions:

•What is your interpretation of HR 472, which is titled the “Safe Recovery and Community Empowerment Act?”

As the resolution is defined, it resolves that nothing in federal law pertaining to individuals with disabilities prohibits local governments from:

  1. Requiring a reasonable minimum distance between residential recovery facilities within a particular area zoned for residential housing if such requirement is necessary to preserve the residential character of the area and allows for some of such facilities to be located within such area; and
  2. Requiring that such a facility obtain an operating license or use permit or satisfy a set of consumer protection standards, which may include a maximum capacity requirement.

•Does this proposed legislation have the opportunity to make an impact here in Scottsdale?

Most definitely. Residents in Scottsdale have been asking for city regulation for some time now and  HR 472 will give us the authority to write our own code and regulations to safeguard our neighborhoods.

•Have sober homes issues increased or decreased over the last few years?

Sober homes have not only increased but so have neighborhood complaints about drug deals outside the homes, needles left on the streets, and safety issues for their children.

•What is at the core of this issue?

The core issue is peace and safety for residents in neighborhoods. Sober Homes are a business-for-profit, and gauging from the emails I get it doesn’t appear that all are really getting help but rather using the sober home as a refuge to deal with court-ordered treatment vs. jail time. A neighborhood should be a family’s safe haven where they can enjoy watching their children play and visiting with neighbors, not worrying about the huddled group under the lampost at night or someone following their children to school. I’m not saying this is the way everyone who chooses to rehabilitate acts, but it is real to those families who live nearby and without the city’s ability to regulate there is no recourse for families who do have issues in their neighborhoods.

•What do you see as the happy medium solution to this persistent issue for neighborhoods?

Personally I do not think Sober Homes or AirBNB Rentals should be allowed in neighborhoods. The sanctity of a residential neighborhood is at stake.  Both are turning neighborhoods into businesses at the expense of resident peace and safety. As a city councilman my first priority is the safety and well being of the residents and it is frustrating when our hands are tied because of state or federal mandates that we must comply with, regardless of the negative consequences. It is my hope HR 472 will pass and Scottsdale will be able to enact fair and equitable regulations to provide for the safety and quality of life for our residents.  Hopefully the League of Cities will also resolve the state mandate on Airbnb as well

Northeast Valley Managing Editor Terrance Thornton can be contacted at tthornton@newszap.com

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