Belleville

August 17, 2014

Delay sought on vote on disabled adult home

Some residents want time to seek legal assistance and have asked the Belleville City Council to delay voting Monday on a special use permit for a group home for four disabled adults.

On the council agenda is a request by TDL Group for a permit allowing four adults with intellectual disabilities to live at 212 Turning Leaf Circle.

For the past month, residents of Green Mount Manor, a subdivision off Green Mount Road where TDL owns a home, have voiced concerns over the placement of the group home and TDL Group's business practices.

At a council meeting two weeks ago, aldermen delayed a vote on the issue after more than 30 residents showed up to speak for or against giving TDL Group a permit.

Mayor Mark Eckert and aldermen asked that subdivision residents meet with TDL Group to sort out concerns and misunderstandings, but the two sides had not come together for a meeting as of Friday.

"I did what I said I would do," Eckert said. "I had a neutral third party reach out to both sides. TDL Group said they would meet but the facilitator was unable to get an answer from the Homeowners Association."

Eckert said it will be up to aldermen whether to give residents more time.

Among the options aldermen have on Monday are voting on the issue or again tabling the issue.

The City Council meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. in the Council Chambers at City Hall, 101 S. Illinois St.

Paul Dutton, a board member of the subdivision's Homeowners Association, confirmed in an email Thursday that residents decided to hire an attorney.

"Yes, we have asked for more time as we need to know our rights as homeowners under state and federal laws, and how they apply to us," Dutton said.

Chris Tierney-Hurst, also a Green Mount Manor resident, said part of the decision to seek legal advice is because those who enforce the subdivision indenture has also failed to meet with residents to explain how the Homeowners Association covenant stands up to the Fair Housing Act.

Tierney-Hurst said his opposition to the group home is not about the residents having disabilities. He does not want TDL Group, a business, to be part of the subdivision.

"If it was a family caring for their loved one who is disabled or it was a family paying for someone to come in and care for them, I'd be over there delivering cookies," Tierney-Hurst said. "But a company motivated by monetary reasons will ruin the atmosphere of this community."

Tierney-Hurst said it is unclear if the four disabled adults really want to move from where they currently reside to the subdivision or if they are being forced to move.

With the closing of state institutions for people with development disabilities, like the Warren G. Murray Developmental Center in Centralia, which has 225 residents, smaller group home operators might be pressured by state or financially motivated to place residents in group homes even if it is not in the best interest of the disabled person, Tierney-Hurst said.

"We want someone to answer our questions about the big picture," Tierney-Hurst said.

Subdivision residents also want to know if TDL Group plans on frequently rotating which residents live in the home, and how residents will know if the proper background checks are being done, Tierney-Hurst said.

Tom Kennedy, attorney for TDL Group, has said the subdivision is closer to at least where one of the residents work, the McDonald's in O'Fallon, and is better suited for the residents because it is in an area that allows them to be more integrated in the Belleville community.

It would be a violation of federal law if the council or Homeowners Association prevented people with disabilities from living in the home, Kennedy said.

TDL Group has said that all four residents are high-functioning, not violent and do not have criminal histories. The residents have jobs and either take public transportation or will be driven by a TDL Group staff member, who will be at the home with the residents at all times.

The four adults who would move to Green Mount Manor are currently residents at Belle Manor, a group home in Belleville with 16 residents operated by TDL Group.

TDL Group wants to downsize the Belle Manor location to eight residents.

TDL Group requested a special use permit from the Zoning Board of Appeals in July. The board voted unanimously to approve the permit and recommended the City Council do the same.

TDL Group needs a special use permit in this case because the subdivision near Green Mount Road is actually in a part of the city that has a C-4 commercial zoning district designation.

The Green Mount Manor subdivision and the neighboring retail area, Green Mount Commons, is part of a planned unit development, which means the subdivision itself also needed a sort of special use permit to be there.

If a home is located in an area that is zoned single-family residential, then the homeowner would not need to go through the special use permit process and neighbors would not be notified.

A home with five or fewer residents with disabilities is considered a small community residence, which is allowed in a single-family residence district.

Small community residences have to be 800 feet from each other unless they get a waiver, per state law.

Contact reporter Jacqueline Lee at jlee@bnd.com or 618-239-2655. Follow her on Twitter at https://twitter.com/BNDJLee.

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