Group home voted down

May 13, 2014

Greenfield — With their controversial and precedent-setting proposal to establish a group home beside an existing group home being narrowly voted down by the Greenfield Common Council last week, developers are still trying to figure out where to go from there.

"We don't know what we're going to do, yet," Kris Kiefer, co-owner of Castle Home Care, said.

Home care had asked to build an eight-bed community based residential facility to serve the elderly beside the one it already operates at 4900 S. 68th St.

Many neighbors vehemently opposed the plan, citing the hubbub of ambulances, the coming and going of staff and visitors from two homes instead of just one.

They also objected to the size and what they called the institutional look of the proposed building. Another major fear was that it would worsen the area's drainage problems.

Kiefer said many adjustments had been made to meet residents' concerns with the size of the project originally being two buildings of at least 20 beds each. The proposed building was turned to lessen its visual impact from the street and drainage issues were addressed, he said.

"I felt we were discriminated against," Kiefer said. "They allowed other CBRFs to go in but not us."

The building meets all city zoning and building requirements, he said.

"To stop like this is just not right," he said.

But to approve the group home would have set a precedent because the homes would be side-by-side, said Bruce Bailey, alderman of the area. Residents objected to allowing side-by-side group homes saying that could result in CBRFs up and down blocks anywhere in the city, destroying the residential feel neighborhoods.

"I didn't want to set a precedent," said Bailey who voted against granting a waiver to allow the home along with aldermen Karl Kastner and Pam Akers. Voting for the waiver were aldermen Linda Lubotsky and Shirley Saryan.

Bailey said having group homes so close together isn't what the state had in mind when it passed the statute. It said there had to be a 2,500-foot bufferbetween group homes, although homes could be side-by-side if the community approves a waiver.

The buffer didn't stand up in court, but the proposed home on 68th Street would have needed the waiver.

Besides he said, his district already has many group homes.

"We're saturated with them," he said.

Even if there had been no CBRF right next door, the city had the right under state law to refuse permission for another one simply because in his aldermanic district more than 1 percent of residents live in CBRFs, he said. In fact 2 percent live in group homes, Bailey said.

"There's a reason why state law is that way," in seeking to spread group homes throughout communities, Bailey said. Normally, a city cannot block an eight-bed CBRF except for health and safety reasons.

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