The Howell City Council met Monday night and approved an extension of a group housing moratorium.

A one-year moratorium was put in place last July to allow staff and consultants time to review current ordinances and the state of regulation throughout the country, specifically as it relates to sober living homes. It was put in place shortly after an application for a sober living home was withdrawn for property at 304 South Walnut Street – which led to substantial neighborhood outcry and concern. The applicant is The Amber Reineck House, which is working in partnership with Home of New Vision, which operates facilities in other areas and would support women seeking long term treatment from addiction. The Amber Reineck House would mirror that model and a representative was in attendance at Monday’s meeting. She said they have been very patient and purchased the home a year ago but there is a major need for the type of facility, as there not any in Livingston County. The home would be for Livingston County residents only and they must qualify and follow set rules. It was also noted the home would serve six women at a time who have already been through rehab and chosen to live sober lives.

Council voted to extend the moratorium, although Mayor Nick Proctor was opposed. He raised concerns about the length of time and felt they owe the applicant and residents some resolution. Proctor told WHMI he believes that 12 months is sufficient time for the City to get its act together but the extension was approved so the item will be back in three months and they’ll hopefully have some recommendations and a way forward. He says they already have several in the City that are working very well but as was brought up by Council, they just want to make sure they are not taking a disproportionate number from other areas of the county. Proctor noted that when the proposal came to the attention of council, they did get a lot of pushback from residents in that area who had legitimate concerns and wanted it to be studied so that’s what they’re doing.

Over the last year, staff along with legal counsel and outside consultants have been reviewing current ordinances and regulations in other communities as well as other ordinances that have been upheld in local and federal cases. Staff commented that there are a lot of different things at play and they want the ordinance done right. Part of the delay was attributed to different case law that out there. Staff and the City’s legal counsel commented that case law has been constantly shifting and there are still come moving targets out there but don’t believe they will need another extension. It was noted that the forthcoming ordinance won’t be able to address all of the resident concerns that have been raised but there are recommendations Council can implement to address some. Among those include a new licensing procedure and new special land use review process for group home uses. Staff indicated the ordinances for these types of uses are nearing completion and they will be brought to Council for review in August. (JM)