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December 22, 2012
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St. Paul's Sober Living wins trial against county

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado - The owners of a "sober house" in the Elk Springs subdivision on Friday won a federal lawsuit against Garfield County over the county commissioners' 2011 denial of the facility's right to operate.

A federal court jury in Denver awarded the St. Paul Sober Living facility $400,000 on Friday, after concluding that Garfield County violated the U.S. Fair Housing Act, according to plaintiff's attorney Steve Polin.

St. Paul Sober Living is owned by a nonprofit organization of the same name based in St. Paul, Minn.

U.S. District Court Judge Brooke Jackson also barred Garfield County from taking any punitive action against the facility.

The facility provides housing for individuals recovering from alcohol or drug addiction who have graduated from other treatment centers and have already been sober for six months.

Neighbors of the facility had complained to Garfield County that the sober house was a commercial business and violated the county's zoning code and Elk Springs subdivision covenants.

The county commissioners then denied St. Paul's request to modify the zoning code to permit sober houses as a conditional use for a single family dwelling.

St. Paul Sober Living filed suit against the county in February 2011, Polin said. The trial was held this week, Dec. 18-21, in U.S. District Court in Denver.

Under Jackson's ruling, Garfield County can take no further administrative action against St. Paul's.

"They can't enforce their zoning code to do anything to St. Paul's," Polin said.

Garfield County Manager Drew Gorgey told the Post Independent on Friday that he knew of the jury's decision, but had not heard the amount of the award.

"The county attorney will advise the commissioners and me in due course," he said. "We will explore all our legal options."

Gorgey said he would have no further comment until after he had heard directly from county attorney Frank Hutfless.

Gorgey said assistant county attorney Cassie Coleman argued the case for Garfield County. Coleman could not be reached for comment on Friday.

The St. Paul's facility, run by director Chris Edrington, has been operating since 2007 in the Elk Springs subdivision, which is just off Garfield County Road 114 (CMC Road) on the way to Spring Valley.

Another facility, also run by Edrington, is located in Carbondale.

According to a 2007 story in the Post Independent, the Elk Springs facility can accommodate as many as 10 residents at a time, and features two TV rooms, an outdoor Jacuzzi and "stunning views of Mount Sopris."

jcolson@postindependent.com


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The Post Independent Updated Dec 22, 2012 01:14AM Published Dec 22, 2012 01:13AM Copyright 2012 The Post Independent. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.