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Fri, Oct. 18

Prescott seeks stricter group recovery home regulations

Photos.com

Photos.com

PRESCOTT - Future group recovery homes in Prescott's single-family neighborhoods could be restricted to fewer residents, but those already in existence likely would see no change.

That was the direction the city appeared to be heading Tuesday, when the Prescott City Council and Prescott Planning and Zoning Commission members met in a joint workshop to look into possible ordinance changes to deal with a proliferation of group homes in Prescott.

Although they took no vote, most members were amenable to taking the next step toward drafting an ordinance that would implement more restrictions.

That will set off a series of future discussions. After the meeting, Planning Manager George Worley estimated that the ordinance draft could be ready to go to the Planning and Zoning Commission by about mid-August.

A final decision by the City Council would come after the commission makes a recommendation. Both bodies would conduct public hearings on the proposed changes.

Acknowledging that the proposed changes might not go as far as they would like, council members obviously wanted to move forward with the level of changes that the law would allow.

"We are restricted by federal and state law," Councilman Charlie Arnold said. "I would like to see this proceed. Do I think it's enough? No. But it's what we are going to be able to do."

Added Mayor Marlin Kuykendall: "I have to think if there's any improvement we can do to retain the quality of life in Prescott...then it's worth that effort. I think you have your marching orders - let's move as expeditiously as we can."

In short, the changes would: reduce the number of allowed unrelated residents in a single housekeeping unit in a single-family zone from eight to six; and restrict those with seven or more residents to multi-family zones (with a conditional use permit), and to commercial zones, where they would allowed outright.

While City Attorney Jon Paladini referred to the proposal as "legally defensible," he said some other steps might not be.

For instance, he said staff was not recommending the implementation of a "buffer zone" that would restrict group homes from locating within a specified distance from one another.

Although noting that a one-quarter-mile buffer was imposed in Glendale while he worked there as chief deputy city attorney from 2001 to 2007, Paladini said Prescott's smaller size and hilly topography could make such a buffer problematic.

Imposing a buffer in Prescott conceivably could result in a situation in which no new group homes would be allowed, Paladini said, which likely would not hold up in court.

He also said the city could not impose its new restrictions on group homes that are already established in the city.

"The current group home uses would not be affected," Paladini said of the proposed restrictions. "The law does not allow the city to retroactively apply the zoning code."

Paladini and Worley emphasized that any changes Prescott makes must comply with the U.S. Fair Housing Act, which provides protections for people with disabilities. They added that people recovering from drug and alcohol addiction "are deemed disabled."

The City Council has conducted a number of discussions recently about the "proliferation" of group recovery homes in the community. Paladini said Prescott "is recognized throughout the state as having a disproportionate share of group residential uses."

After the meeting, he said he had heard that view from representatives of the Arizona Department of Health Services, which does the licensing of certain types of recovery treatment facilities.

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