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August 5, 2014

Don't block group home

Some residents in the Green Mount Manor subdivision said they oppose a group home for the mentally disabled in their neighborhood because they are worried about their children. But the real danger to their children is the intolerance and ignorance being displayed.

The group home operator isn't trying to bring sex offenders or ax murderers or gang members into the neighborhood. The group home would be for four disabled adults who just need some support to live independently.

Resident Laudon King said he thinks there are better locations for a group home in Belleville than a single-family residential area. But the whole point of a group home is to allow disabled people to live in a regular home. Ironically, the only reason the group home needs a zoning variance is because this subdivision is in a commercially zoned area. If it had single-family residential zoning as most subdivisions do, no special permits would be needed.

The Belleville City Council wisely tabled this issue on Monday because of the high emotions of the people in attendance, but the council ultimately needs to approve this variance. Federal law doesn't allow discrimination against minorities or the disabled; a homeowner association's rules don't trump the law.

Belleville doesn't want to be like Hecker, which had to pay $50,000 earlier this year to settle a discrimination suit after it tried to block a group home, or Caseyville Township, which had to pay a $60,000 settlement in a discrimination case.

Belleville leaders urged the homeowners and the group home operator to meet before the next council meeting. We hope that will result in a less emotional, more constructive dialogue.

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