Meeting in the middle at sober home
Attempts by Chris Edrington to be more neighborly haven’t gone far enough to satisfy residents of Catherine Court in Carbondale.
Holding an open house recently to show neighbors the workings of his new ‘sober house’ helped open lines of communication. But Edrington and residents of the neighborhood still have vastly different things to say about him operating a home there for recovering alcoholics.
Neighbors don’t want it. Federal law appears to allow for it.
Nothing is going to make both the Minnesota man and the Catherine Court residents entirely happy, but there is room for compromise here.
Neighbors point out that the town’s zoning permits up to four non-related people per household. Edrington is planning on allowing up to nine men as tenants in his house as they learn to live a life of sobriety. He should agree to the four-person cap, even if he’s not required to abide by local zoning or covenants under federal fair housing laws applying to recovering alcoholics.
Other landlords in Carbondale abide by that limit and are able to make a profit. Edrington should do the same, despite his protestations that it wouldn’t work with four people.
If he feels he would have to ask for higher rent than recovering alcoholics could reasonably afford to pay, he should consider moving his operation to somewhere that’s more affordable. Running the equivalent of two rental homes out of one, with the additional traffic, noise and other impacts associated with that, is unfair to neighbors.
Neighbors also argue that their subdivision covenants allow only single-family homes. But there has to be give and take in this situation.
Edrington looks to have the law on his side. Neighbors need to be willing to live with something other than what they had thought their covenants would allow.
That also will require their having to be open-minded about recovering alcoholics living nearby, in the spirit of the law that allows for it. That idea might make a lot of us uncomfortable if we were in the shoes of Catherine Court residents, but supporters of the home point out that there are a lot of people living in our midst who have drinking problems that can make them a danger. By contrast, those living at Edrington’s house are working to overcome their drinking problems.
Federal law gives recovering alcoholics housing rights as disabled people, and these rights need to be honored. In turn, Edrington needs to show that he can be not only a good sober home administrator but a good neighbor. Rather than doing whatever the law allows him to do, he should meet his neighbors halfway.
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