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7:40 PM Thu, Dec. 13th

Draft group-home ordinance expected to go to Prescott City Council in August

PRESCOTT — With a new group-home law scheduled to go into effect this summer, the City of Prescott is working on an ordinance that would put the law into practice.

City Attorney Jon Paladini told members of the Mayor’s Ad Hoc Committee on Structured Sober Living Homes Wednesday, June 8, that his department has drafted an ordinance that would impose new restrictions on group homes.

The city ordinance is expected to build upon the state law that State Rep. Noel Campbell, R-Prescott, sponsored in this year’s legislative session.

The bill, which was approved by both the House and Senate, was later signed by Gov. Doug Ducey.

It was designed to give cities, towns, and counties more authority over various aspects of the group home industry, such as requirements for house managers of structured sober living homes, and exit policies for people who leave the group-home programs.

Paladini pointed out that the new state law is scheduled to go into effect Aug. 6. Therefore, he said, “The earliest we could adopt anything would be the August time frame.”

Paladini said city staff likely would review the draft ordinance this month. The matter could then go to the City Council for a workshop discussion in July, with a possible vote in August.

Noting that the ordinance is still in draft form, Paladini declined to comment on the details, maintaining that discussion of the specifics would be premature.

But, he told the committee that any new restrictions would have to be workable.

“We don’t want to draft an ordinance that doesn’t work operationally,” he said. “The big question is going to be staffing it.”

In the past, the city has discussed imposing minimum age and education requirements for group-home house managers, as well as requiring certification through a training course. In addition, the city has pushed for mandated exit policies, which would set out the procedural steps for residents who leave the programs.

Molly McGinn, managing partner of TreeHouse Learning Community in Prescott, made a presentation on the curriculum being developed for a training course at Yavapai College.

She said the house-manager course could be ready for students by about September.

Campbell, who attended the committee meeting, said he hopes that area governments will move forward soon on implementing group home ordinances.

“I’m anxiously awaiting that these ordinances get drafted,” Campbell said. “I hope the city and county can take advantage of what I’ve done.”

Throughout the legislative process, Campbell, who lives in Prescott, has emphasized the community’s plight over a proliferation of group homes.

“This will be a great tool for the city,” Campbell said of the new law, which he introduced as House Bill 2107.

In response to questions over whether other local governments would also move toward tighter restrictions on structured sober living homes, Campbell maintained that it would be in the community’s best interest if other governments, such as Yavapai County, would also move forward.

“The worst thing we did as a city is ignore this for years,” he said of the growth of the group home industry. Adding that while other governments and communities might think they do not have a problem, Campbell said, “You can keep your head in the sand for just so long. If we could have got on it sooner, we would have had a better result.”

Along with the discussion on the new state law, the committee also heard from Chief Code Enforcement Compliance Officer Michael Fleming about the city’s list of group homes.

He pointed out that the city’s tax and licensing department had conducted an audit and had determined that as many as 53 of the 170 homes on the city’s list may need to be removed from the list.

Over time, he said, group homes come and go, and operators generally do not notify the city when they are no longer in business.

The city’s new business-license program, which will go into effect later this year, will help to keep the list more up-to-date, Fleming said.

The next Structured Sober Living Home Committee meeting is scheduled for 5 p.m. Wednesday, July 13, at Prescott City Hall, 201 S. Cortez St.