Nimby Assessment

Applying Spacing Restrictions in Error

Responses

Think about the scenario from the perspective of RC as you consider questions RC might ask to determine whether the spacing restriction in question is being applied correctly to the supportive housing project.

Is the proposed RC project a "group home" that is subject to the Spacing Restrictions requirement?

The town's ordinance defines a group home as a "residential placement for persons with disabilities who are in need of 24-hour supervision." RC's clinical and programmatic staff have determined that prospective residents will not need 24-hour supervision, and that such supervision is actually at odds with RC's mission to provide supportive housing in which residents have a high degree of autonomy as they move toward recovery and reconnection with work or education. RC could assert that it is not operating a "group home," but supportive housing, which is not subject to the spacing restrictions. Review the text of the applicable statute, regulation, or ordinance with the assistance of legal counsel to ensure that the definitions are appropriately applied to RC, and that RC is not exempted from coverage by some provision.

Note that, since the spacing restriction specifies a minimum distance between group homes, even if RC cannot convince town officials that it is not operating a group home, it can challenge the designation of the other home as a "group home."

Is the proposed RC project actually within 2500 feet of the other provider? Does the presence of a geographic barrier invalidate the application of the spacing criterion?

Ordinances that impose spacing criteria typically seek to avoid the concentration of housing for persons with disabilities in neighborhoods where housing prices are low and where there is little community opposition. Most such ordinances use the "as the crow flies" method of measurement. However, the spacing criterion may cease to apply when significant geographic barriers, such as large roads, highways, rivers, or lakes, intervene.

Determining whether the proposed RC project complies with the spacing criterion will require not only a physical measurement, but also an assessment of the geography of the area. In this case, the town has determined that the RC home is 1500 feet from another supportive housing provider. However, RC could use the presence of a geographic barrier (such as a highway, major thoroughfare, or stream) to challenge the application of the spacing criterion, arguing that the homes are located in two distinct neighborhoods and would not constitute a concentration of supportive housing.

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