Garfield County seeks to settle sober house case
Ryan Summerlin February 12, 2014
Garfield County is entering final negotiations to settle a case against the county over its denial of a “sober house” in the Elk Springs subdivision south of Glenwood Springs in 2011.
A federal court jury in Denver awarded the St. Paul Sober Living facility $400,000 in December 2012, after concluding that Garfield County violated the U.S. Fair Housing Act in denying use of an existing residence for a sober-living house.
St. Paul Sober Living, a nonprofit organization based in St. Paul, Minn., opened the facility in 2007 to provide transitional housing for individuals recovering from alcohol or drug addiction who had been through treatment and had been sober for at least six months.
Neighbors of the facility, which is located off County Road 114 (CMC Road) 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 denied St. Paul’s request to modify the zoning code to permit sober houses as a conditional use, which led to the lawsuit. The sober house has continued to operate in the meantime.
U.S. District Court Judge Brooke Jackson, who heard the case, barred Garfield County from taking any punitive action against the facility.
However, the county filed an appeal over the dollar amount in the ruling, said county attorney Frank Hutfless.
County commissioners this week directed Hutfless to enter final negotiations to settle the case. The settlement would close litigation on the case and dismiss a pending state case that the plaintiffs had filed as well, Hutfless said.
“We haven’t signed any agreements yet,” said Hutfless, who did not disclose the amount of the proposed settlement. “This would bring negotiations to a conclusion.”
According to a 2007 Post Independent story, the Elk Springs facility can accommodate as many as 10 residents at a time. St. Paul operates a similar residential facility in Carbondale as well.