Group home plan draws concerns - Coeur d'Alene Press: Local News

Group home plan draws concerns

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Posted: Tuesday, November 27, 2012 1:05 am

POST FALLS - Some residents and a real estate agent who markets the Tullamore subdivision in Post Falls are upset that they weren't notified earlier by the city of the type of clients a planned group home for the mentally ill serves.

"Our problem is the process by which this was taken through the system," said Pete Faust, who is marketing the Tullamore project. "No one, from proponents to operators to city staff, ever disclosed that this was a facility to house the seriously mentally ill, drug addicts and possibly released felons, although they had to be aware of it."

The nonprofit Trinity Group Homes operates two duplexes in Coeur d'Alene that house 18 adults with mental illness and provides them with life skills programs. It recently held a groundbreaking ceremony for an eight-room duplex off Poleline in the Tullamore subdivision west of Highway 41.

Construction is expected to start soon and is expected to be completed by March.

Faust said the public hearing notice in April only mentioned a change in density for the site.

But the city says that, under law, it has to comply with the Fair Housing Act and treat the home the same way it treats any single-family home as far as zoning because it houses eight or fewer residents.

"Other than a ceremonial groundbreaking, the proposed building is only plans on paper at this point," Jerry Mason, an attorney who represents the city, wrote in an email. "None of us know who will reside there when it is built. I don't know if the planning staff had any idea about the potential criminal history of any residents, if any of the future residents will have a criminal history. At this point, we know that a group home is proposed."

Mason said governmental agencies need to handle group home requests delicately due to discrimination lawsuits. He referred to a 2010 case in which Boise County was hit with a $4 million verdict for obstructing a home for troubled teens after neighbors opposed it.

"I intend to do my best to prevent that in Post Falls," Mason said. "Idaho law and federal law are structured to make such facilities reasonably available - and to minimize the potential for unlawful discrimination. A group home for eight or fewer is able to locate anywhere a traditional single-family dwelling can locate. Whenever an issue of use arises concerning group homes, the city will be guided by these statutory standards."

Mason said if any laws are violated after the home is built, efforts to ensure compliance will be enforced.

Even though Trinity'sproject was on last week's city council agenda under the Consent Calendar as an administrative matter dealing with the subdivision itself and not as a public hearing, Faust and others were allowed to voice their concerns at the meeting.

"We just think the whole process was deliberately non-transparent and that the city was a part of that," said Faust, who spoke on behalf of the homeowners, and added that the city may be in collusion with a favored developer.

But Mason said that's not the case.

"The city has not concealed or colluded with anyone concerning this matter," Mason wrote.

Homeowner MaryAnn Schevenius said such a group home and starter homes weren't envisioned when she purchased her house in Tullamore, which called for shopping, restaurants and a church. Trinity's plan comes after Tullamore developers faced financial problems.

"It just makes me feel deceived and sad ... but there isn't anything we can do about it," she said.

Schevenius said she fears the value of her home will be decreased even more and is concerned for the safety of the neighborhood.

"The city was less than forthright in disclosing to the owners the type of assisted living being put in," she said. "The fact that there is two schools within blocks and kids walking past that location daily is just not the best situation."

Bob Runkle, Trinity'sexecutive director, said the nonprofit has scheduled an open house for Wednesday in Coeur d'Alene and plans to meet with Tullamore homeowners on Thursday to answer questions and address concerns. Trinity's facilities are semi-independent, meaning staff is not on site 24-7.

"All residents are functioning adults who are independent members of our community," Runkle said. "We operate under a clean and sober policy that requires that no alcohol or drugs be on the premises. Trinity does not tolerate substance abuse of any kind and violation of this rule results in eviction. No guests are allowed in our homes past 10 p.m., which is when quiet hours start."

Trinity has been offering housing since 1979. Runkle said the nonprofit's homes in Coeur d'Alene are near a day care center and an elementary school.

"In the years since I joined Trinity (in 2008), there has been one incident in which the police were called," Runkle said. "The complaint was against a neighboring family which had a radio or stereo playing at a loud level after midnight. Our resident had complained about the noise."

Runkle said all residents' criminal backgrounds are checked prior to being accepted.

"Trinity does not allow residents with convictions of any sexually-related crime or anyone with a conviction of violent crime," Runkle said.

Of its 18 residents in Coeur d'Alene, two are participants in the Kootenai County Mental Health Court and two are under other county supervision programs.

"This represents a small percentage of our residents," Runkle said.

Trinity residents' average stay is 16 months. Three have lived at Trinity for more than 10 years.

Mason said he has seen many group home controversies during his 40-plus years of municipal work as a planner.

"Many people acknowledge the need for such facilities, but they frequently express reservations about having such facilities near them," he wrote. "The city recognizes the residents' concerns and asks them to discuss the matter thoughtfully with representatives of Trinity."

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  • curr4410 posted at 1:43 pm on Tue, Jan 22, 2013.

    curr4410 Posts: 1

    I have to admit, as a resident of the coeur D'Alene area, I am absolutely appalled at the reactions of people. If they did their research, they would know that you have to undergo some very intense scrutiny just to get into this place. I have a severe and persistent mental disorder, But that doesn't make me a danger. I work a full time job (With children and developmentally disabled and elderly, so whoever said the BS about it not being a good situation having children near the new home - SHAME ON YOU), attend school full time, and act in various productions throughout the community as well as do a large amount of volunteer work. I am currently in the process of applying to be a resident of that new duplex, because I need the extra help with making connections to counselors, psychiatrists, etc to take care of myself. Just because I want to be a resident there, it does not mean I am dangerous, or not capable of taking care of myself, or not safe to be around other people. It means I am choosing to make sure that I better my life, reducing my risk of extreme episodes (I have seizures during these episodes, and have been known to fall down and sprain ankles, get concussions, etc) and creating connections that I can utilize in an emergency situation if I do get sick. Having a Mental Illness is like having diabetes. With medication and proper therapy, you are a functional, happy member of society. This home helps make sure you stay that way. If you're going to discriminateagainst them, you might as well say that you're a jerk who's not interested in being accepting of anyone with an illness of any kind. And with that, I bid you a good day and hope you all learn to get your heads out of your butts and learn what it is to be an accepting, kind member of society.

  • my own opinion posted at 10:19 pm on Wed, Nov 28, 2012.

    my own opinion Posts: 397

    I do have a life. I live near but not in. And I do not comment on everything. I bet you do not even work? I do and this is my free time. I have you on ignore. vacations are great.

  • local res posted at 9:46 pm on Wed, Nov 28, 2012.

    local res Posts: 1162

    Three methods of dealing with this issue.
    1. Why is a business allowed to open shop in a residential neighborhood petition the city to enforce it's own codes. This is not a typical landlord but a business.
    2. Sue the city for not enforcing it's own codes
    3. Be prepared to sue Trinity homes at the first sign of trouble.

  • JoeIdaho posted at 5:47 pm on Wed, Nov 28, 2012.

    JoeIdaho Posts: 2841

    Not a fan of the city/s no matter what....if you HAVE to live in a house in town, in a subdivision, you are GOING to have bad people live near you strictly as a result of math; out of 100 people, there's a few that are...a little....nuts.

    Me; I'm not ever enamored with "upscale neighborhoods", especially not when you live in IDAHO, where it is so incredibly beautiful in the country. I see granite countertops & houses all cropped so neatly together; the idea that you can't put in a shed unless your neighbors all approve of it in an "Architectural Committe" as a form of communism....NOT FOR ME>...

  • lola123 posted at 4:47 pm on Wed, Nov 28, 2012.

    lola123 Posts: 338

    In my own.....From your posts we are glad you don't live in CDA also. If you dont live here why do you constantly post articles commenting on everything? Get a Life.

  • my own opinion posted at 11:49 am on Tue, Nov 27, 2012.

    my own opinion Posts: 397

    I'm glad i do not live in CDA Seems That whole area is going welfare. I guess all the welfare fresh start and all the recovery group homes can enjoy a nice day at the resort and shops being they may end up being the only ones in that area except for a tourist making a wrong turn? what to get mugged? Wake up to people loitering around homes. CDA is fast to become a Ghetto. Nice resort in one direction seedy hotels and hobos the other way then right in the middle welfare pads for the ones with various hang-ups nice CDA!

  • DeNiles posted at 10:44 am on Tue, Nov 27, 2012.

    DeNiles Posts: 2450

    Um, well... Sounds like a home that serves needy folks in a way that a solid religious community should be happy to host and perhaps assist. Granted they may not have control over exactly who resides here or whom might be evicted. Yet as described they seem to be people in need or genuine help and forgiveness. I do understand the concern over lack of disclosure. But if this is how they react with full disclosure then maybe sidestepping the details was required.

  • Blanche posted at 10:35 am on Tue, Nov 27, 2012.

    Blanche Posts: 3

    It's not just property values that are of concern to the neighborhood... Not only do we have lots of children in Tullamore, but Post Falls High School also uses the neighborhood for one of their exercise classes several times a week (and will have to walk directly past the home). I realize that these homes will need to be built someplace, but right by the schools? (PFHS and Prairie Elementary) This doesn't seem wise. Also, knowing that most rehab programs have an 80% recidivism rate and our homes are the closest targets doesn't really instill confidence here....

  • cook posted at 8:58 am on Tue, Nov 27, 2012.

    cook Posts: 1

    It is hard to get the full sense of what is happening to the Tullamore neighborhood by reading the recent articles. The City has absolutely blind-sided our community with its planning of the Trinity Group Home. Group Homes intended for mental illness, felony convictions, and 24 hour crisis. For all of those who are not familiar with Tullamore, you actually have to go through the entry of our development to access the Group Home. We are a neighborhood of families which includes: a park, walking path, bike path, dance and music studio, bus stops, etc. Nobody is trying to discriminate against the cause that Trinity is trying to achieve. However, is it too much to ask to keep them out of family neighborhood developments? The economy has been tough on everyone, and the hurt that Trinity Group Homes will place on our home values is substantial.
    I spoke to the Director of Trinity Group homes Bob Runkle several times. Not only is our concern the loss of home value but of safety of our families. Here is a direct quote from Runkle “ These aren’t violent criminals, just people who break into homes for drugs”. Thank you for that peace of mind!
    Please protect our neighborhood and families from this group home.

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