Prescott: Council debates details of group home ordinance

PRESCOTT – Just how far “into the weeds” the City of Prescott should go in its regulation of group homes dominated much of the discussion this week on a proposed new ordinance.

During a Tuesday, Aug. 9 workshop, the Prescott City Council reviewed various aspects of an ordinance that is under consideration for tightening up regulation of structured sober living homes in the community.

Although most council members have voiced support for stricter regulation of the industry, some debate arose this week over how detailed the ordinance should be, and whether the city would be able to enforce all of the aspects.

At previous meetings, the council has considered changes that would require: 24-hour supervision at group homes; minimum qualifications and training for house managers; and a defined plan for discharge from a recovery program.

City Attorney Jon Paladini explained that the city plans to tie the group home ordinance to the new city business license, which was approved by the council earlier this year, and is scheduled to go into effect Jan. 1, 2017.

Paladini’s presentation also included suggestions for about a dozen detailed rules/regulations, including:

• The home must establish and maintain an operating plan, including discharge planning, maintenance of the property, and noise abatement. The relapse and discharge policy must include notice to the family of a proposed eviction; time limits for when the eviction can occur; and alternate living accommodation referrals.

• If the home operator is not the owner of the property, written approval from the owner would be required for operation of the group home on the property.

• The home’s rules must include prohibition of the use of alcohol or any non-prescription controlled substances, along with a written policy regarding possession, use, and storage of prescription medications and non-prescription medications.

• Homes must have a good-neighbor policy that directs occupants to be considerate of neighbors, including refraining from excessively loud, profane, or obnoxious behavior.

After hearing the details, Councilman Steve Sischka maintained that the city was “getting so far in the weeds” with the ordinance, and he suggested, “We need to bring it back a bit. This is just getting a life of its own.”

But Councilwoman Billie Orr expressed strong support. “I do think it’s doable,” she said of the ordinance’s details. “And I do think we have to do it. We need to say ‘three strikes and you’re out.’ Our communities are being changed by this, and I think we need to get control of it.”

Councilman Greg Lazzell also voiced support: “We have a problem in the town, and we want to have as many tools in the tool box (as possible). I think we need to go there.”

Sischka responded: “There’s no doubt we need to go there. But it needs to fit with what we do.”

This week’s meeting was the latest in a series of discussions on the proposed ordinance.

Paladini said he plans to have a draft ordinance ready for the council to review at a study session on Sept. 13. Depending on the outcome of that meeting, the council could opt to vote at the next meeting on Sept. 27.

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