Various issues have led the City of Howell to launch an in-depth study period when it comes to potentially regulating group and sober living homes.

The Howell City Council met Monday night and approved a 12-month moratorium on consideration of special land use permits in residential districts for group homes and other types of facilities. Staff stressed there is no pre-conceived notion or intent with the moratorium, and issues came to light over the last few months after an application and other inquires raised a multitude of questions.

City Manager Shea Charles tells WHMI it’s something they’ll be researching and looking at potential alternatives. He says the moratorium came out of some recent applications as well as some ongoing conversations about the nature of these types of facilities and the impact on neighborhoods. Charles says they’ll be taking the next twelve months to do some data collection, additional analysis and come back with potential alternatives for the City to consider to help address concerns but also make sure they are integrated in an appropriate way with the community.

In April, the City’s Community Development Department received an application for a recovery supportive services home at 304 South Walnut Street, targeting individuals recovering from heroin addiction. That application has since been withdrawn. Staff noted a tremendous amount of public input was received; largely negative from Howell residents but positive from those outside the City.

It was noted during the meeting that it is a needed service, a lot of which has resulted from the nationwide opiate crisis, and other communities are also beginning to deal with issues and potential regulations. Another factor is that the State of Michigan pre-empts municipalities on certain facilities. A group home of six or less involves a state license but the state handles that process. Charles says there is also that balance between being pre-empted by state law, what the City can approve locally and things of that nature.

The City will engage staff, legal counsel and planning consultants in the research and analysis process but also plans to seek outside services from legal counsel specializing in the topic. Staff stated they want to gather good data on where these types of homes are currently located throughout the county but that could prove tough because they are not easy to find or always required to register. It was further noted that since there are no pending applications, the City is well within its rights to implement a moratorium. (JM)