Legal worries in rehab dispute
CARBONDALE ” The town could be wading into dangerous legal waters if it tries to shut down a home for alcohol recovery that began taking in residents in a Crystal Village neighborhood last week.
“This is a very litigious area, all the way up to the Supreme Court (involving confidentiality and discrimination laws),” Mayor Michael Hassig said at Tuesday night’s Carbondale Board of Trustees meeting.
“In that regard, we’d rather err on the side of caution until we understand the issues and ramifications,” he said.
Trustees planned to meet in private session with Town Attorney Mark Hamilton following the regular agenda Tuesday to discuss the town’s legal options.
Hassig’s comments came after about 20 neighbors attended the meeting, claiming that zoning laws and their own homeowners covenants should prohibit what they believe to be a clear-cut commercial venture.
“My concern is not the people who live there, and I have no problems with people who are recovering from addiction,” said Rene Maggert, who lives next door to the new recovery group home, located at 1204 Catherine Court.
“The concern is that this is a commercial operation in a residential neighborhood,” she said.
Dewey Fanti, who lives at 1208 Catherine Court, quickly became concerned after the house sold and a large group of men pulled up in a vehicle and entered the house on July 28. After talking to some of the men outside and briefly introducing himself to the new owner, Chris Edrington, he discovered what was intended for the residence.
Fanti immediately began rallying his neighbors to speak out against the recovery facility, and made up signs warning others that it could just as easily happen in their neighborhood.
“These people are slam-dunking these things in all over the country, and they’re making people come up and fight them,” Fanti said in an interview before Tuesday’s meeting. “This is outlandish. This is not a commercially zoned neighborhood.”
Town attorney Hamilton said he spoke briefly with Edrington and his attorney, and learned that they intend to have up to nine individuals live in the house. A supervisor is to live nearby, but not directly in the home, he said, and residents must attend regular Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and remain sober in order to stay in the home.
Similar homes have cropped up around the country under such names as the Oxford House. Hamilton said some of the male residents of the new home in Crystal Village have also been referred from the Jaywalker Lodge in Carbondale.
Jaywalker opened in the former Paper Chase Building on Main Street earlier this year as a “third-step” residential alcohol recovery program for men. However, executive director Bob Ferguson said Jaywalker is not directly affiliated with the new group home.
“This is an independent undertaking and is not part of Jaywalker Lodge,” said Ferguson, who also attended Tuesday’s meeting.
After the meeting, however, he said he supports the availability of such homes for graduates of his program and others like it.
“We are excited that our program graduates, who have four months or more of sobriety, can have this catalyst to be integrated into this wonderful community,” he said.
The concept of a group home is about being surrounded by people who can both offer and seek support from each other, Ferguson said.
“Recovery is about working to accomplish together what none of us alone could accomplish,” he said.
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Police were able to de-escalate an incident involving a man who was brandishing a gun at the Carbondale Days Inn Tuesday afternoon and place the suspect under arrest.