Huron council hears group home protests

HURON Residents came out in force Tuesday night to express their displeasure about a home under cons
MIKE FITZPATRICK
May 24, 2010

HURON

Residents came out in force Tuesday night to express their displeasure about a home under construction on Berlin Road for clients of Erie County MRDD.

The city has said the home would violate zoning laws because it is not a single-family or two-family home, but instead a group home that would house three to five people with developmental disabilities. The city issued a stop building order for the home earlier this month.

The city zoning code refers to a one-family home as R-1 and a two-family home as R-2. The city believes the group home should be designated as R-3, multi-family. The area of Berlin Road where the house would be built is zoned R-2.

About 30 people showed up for the meeting, but only a handful spoke during the audience comment portion.

Diana Craft, who lives on Berlin Road, said she is not is not against developmentally handicapped people but was concerned about "safety issues" residents may pose.

One person expressed concerns the home could become a halfway house for people recently released from prison, and another wondered if the residents would have to pay taxes.

The Arc of Erie County and Erie County MRDD are working together on the home.

Mayor Marilyn Shearer told the audience that several members of council and the city's administration have family members, relatives or neighbors who are developmentally handicapped. Council is not opposed to mentally handicapped people living in the city, she said, but council is "sworn to uphold the law until it's changed."

Huron law director Lee McDermond said the city is holding up the project based on two issues. The first is zoning. The second, which crept up last week, is whether the home has been properly inspected.

McDermond said the city is using a zoning expert from regional planning to see if the home could be built in an R-2 neighborhood.

The inspection issue is a different story.

"Either that building has been inspected, or it hasn't been. If the proper certified building official comes forward and says, 'Yes, I inspected that and certified that,' then that issue's resolved. But as of this date that doesn't seem to be the case," McDermond said.

Gerald Plassenthal, superintendent of the Erie County MRDD, told the audience MRDD decided to build in Huron because there are 54 families in the city who have family members with developmental disabilities.

"They have repeatedly asked us, 'Why do our sons and daughters have to move out of the community to live in a home?'" McDermond told the audience.