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Sober house zoning application due Tuesday

CARBONDALE – Chris Edrington, the owner of the newly established Sober Living house located at 1204 Catherine Court, has until Oct. 25 to complete a zoning amendment application to continue operating the facility in the Crystal Village subdivision.”They need to tell us what they’re doing and explain how they’re going to address some issues,” said Town Manager Tom Baker.The application has been forthcoming, according to Edrington, but neighboring residents have been antsy and asked the Carbondale trustees last week how long the owner had to fill out the application. The question prompted the trustees to set the deadline for the completed application. If the application isn’t in, the town will cite the owner for violating the zoning ordinance.”Ideally, the application would have been filled out before the house opened,” Baker said.”The bottom line is the use itself is something we can’t legally deny, but the impacts we can look at,” he said. “The federal courts have said communities have to show reasonable accommodation.”Residents in the Crystal Village subdivision, particularly those who live on Catherine Court, have been up in arms over the sober house that opened without any town approvals in August.Residents say they don’t have anything against recovering alcoholics but do have a problem with someone opening what they view as a business in a residential neighborhood. Not only is the use against town zoning regulations, neighbors say, it’s in violation of the subdivision’s homeowners’ covenants. The sober house could have up to nine sober men living in it, according to Edrington, who claims federal disability and fair housing laws protect the establishment.Carbondale’s zoning ordinance allows for only four unrelated people living together in a home. But enforcing the ordinance is nearly impossible because so many residences are out of compliance, and it would be discriminatory to enforce it for some but not others.”The neighbors have been very, very frustrated about the behavior of the property owner and the town,” Baker said.Town trustees started to discuss the broader issue of occupancy limits at their regular meeting last Tuesday, but didn’t get too far. The Planning & Zoning Commission has been working on some recommendations on how to define a “family,” and what constitutes a “bedroom” in a house.”I think you’re nuts, and you’re only asking for trouble,” said Trustee John Foulkrod.Trustee Russ Criswell said at a certain time in his life he would have been in violation of the town’s zoning ordinance by living with more than four unrelated people.”I’m with John, I think we’re nuts to try and discuss this. I don’t want to define family; let’s go after parking,” said Criswell.P&Z created a list of issues that tend to evolve from having several people living in one place, including parking and excessive trash and noise. Trustees agreed that it would be better to enforce the impacts of occupancy than try to legislate how people choose to live inside their homes.


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