Draft ordinance for sober living homes heads to Prescott Council study session

PRESCOTT – In what could be the final study-session consideration of an ordinance for regulation of structured sober living homes in the city, a finished draft will go to the Prescott City Council this week.

The ordinance, which aims to follow through on a new Arizona law that gives cities and towns the authority to set standards for structured sober living homes, is set for council discussion at 1 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 27, at Prescott City Hall, 201 S. Cortez St.

Prescott City Manager Craig McConnell said the study session discussion could result in the council members placing the ordinance on a future voting meeting – possibly as soon as Oct. 11. The ordinance is expected to go into effect Jan. 1, 2017, to coincide with the city’s new business license program.

This week’s discussion will culminate months of city meetings on how best to regulate the many drug-and-alcohol recovery group homes in the city.

While McConnell and Deputy City Manager Alison Zelms emphasized that the city won’t have an exact total of existing structured sober living homes in Prescott until after the implementation of the business license program, they estimated Friday, Sept. 23 that the current number stands at about 100.

That is down from an earlier estimate of 170, as well as a more recent estimate of 110 to 120. In August, a representative of the Centene insurance firm told the city’s Ad Hoc Committee on Structured Sober Living Homes that the number of homes in Prescott had dropped by about 100 because of recent changes in the insurance company’s “payment methodology.”

The draft ordinance refers to the new state law – sponsored by State Rep. Noel Campbell and approved by the Arizona Legislature earlier this year – which “authorizes cities and towns to adopt ordinance standards for structured sober living homes that comply with state and Federal Fair Housing laws and the Americans With Disabilities Act.”

Among the regulations of the city ordinance would be a license for structured sober living homes, which would require the homes to provide address, contact, operational-plan, and home-size information to the city.

A memo from the city’s legal department states: “This ordinance if adopted will require additional work for review of applications and issuance of licenses, as well as ongoing enforcement, primarily of general fund departments.”

To cover the cost of that additional work, the ordinance suggests a one-time fee charged for the license application, review, and issuance process.

The city has not yet determined the amount of the fee, McConnell said this past week, noting that the ordinance calls for a City Council resolution on the fee after the adoption of the structured sober living home ordinance.

The city memo notes that the intent of the ordinance is to protect the residents of the structured sober living homes from abuse, neglect, mistreatment, fraud, and/or inadequate supervision of the vulnerable residents.

Among other things, the ordinance would set standards on: house-manager training; education and criminal backgrounds of employees; the length of sobriety of house managers and operators; and the amount of supervision at the homes.

In other action at the 1 p.m. study session, the council will:

• Consider rescinding the city’s liquor license fee. Bar and restaurant owners have maintained that the fee, which is charged to establishments that serve alcohol, singles out a specific industry, and they have pushed for the elimination of the fee.

The fee currently generates about $70,000, which goes into the city’s tourism promotion effort. Zelms said the loss of the fee revenue would reduce the tourism-promotion fund by about 10 percent.

• Consider a draft ordinance authorizing the city’s code enforcement officers to cite for all city ordinance infractions.

At its 3 p.m. Tuesday voting session, the council will:

• Consider a $69,762 one-year animal sheltering services agreement with the Yavapai Humane Society.

• Consider an intergovernmental agreement with the Yavapai County Flood Control District to accept $600,000 for five drainage improvement projects: Acker Park Detention Basin; Penn Avenue and Eastwood Drive drainage project; Carleton Street/Alarcon Street drainage project; Goodwin Street drainage project; and South Washington Street drainage project.