Residents seek answers on Linden zoning

Published 12:00 am Thursday, April 20, 2006

At the Linden City Council’s first meeting of April, several residents of Pinecrest expressed their concerns over a helper home established in the neighborhood.

Tuesday, the citizens returned to city hall to see if an application for zoning changes.

Sylvan Mutschler, who again served as spokes-man for the neighborhood, said they wanted to check the status of the home.

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“We are still concerned about the zoning and what has and has not occurred,” Mutchsler said. “We just wanted to know if the house with the special needs people in it has requested rezoning or something to do with rezoning.”

For now, no request was made. But the Arc of Fayette and Lamar counties, which established the home, has 30 days from the first meeting to submit its application.

According to the Fair Housing Act, an application might not be necessary.

The act states “local zoning and land use laws that treat groups of unrelated persons with disabilities less favorably than similar groups of unrelated persons without disabilities violate the Fair Housing Act.”

The act also says “if an ordinance also disallows a group home for six or fewer people with disabilities in a certain district or requires this home to seek a use permit, such requirements would conflict with the Fair Housing Act.”

Mutschler maintained zoning is the key concern of the group, not the residents themselves.

“I think we need to address as a general group that we are not afraid of those folks,” Mutschler said. “Several of us have been in systems where people had some kind of disability and we are not against anything like that. Surely, we want people to be able to be integrated into the community. Still, it doesn’t negate the fact that they have moved into a neighborhood that is designated as a single family dwelling.”

The group is also disappointed, Mutschler said, in the way the initial meeting was depicted by a local media outlet.

“We are very disappointed in some of the terminology that was used in the newspaper last week,” Mutschler said. “We definitely do not feel that you should use the word ‘retarded’ anymore. It was inappropriate and should never have been used. As a group, we don’t look at it that way.”

If the zoning issues are resolved, Mutschler said, the problem is solved. But, as long as the home is in violation of the city’s ordinance, he said, they will continue to seek answers.

“If the zoning works out and the people stay there, we are willing to work with them,” Mutschler said. “Right now, the zoning is termed. The biggest issue for us is the zoning concern and we are going to continue to pursue that.”

The initial meeting took place on April 4, which gives the Arc until May 4 to apply for re-zoning if necessary.

The Arc’s attorneys are in meetings to decide the group’s direction.