Legal concerns related to proposed ordinances dealing with transitional and sober living housing in the City of Howell are believed to have now been addressed.

In July of 2018, the City instituted a moratorium for all special land use requests for un-related persons living together in single family residential districts in order to craft two ordinances. It’s a specific type of housing not really addressed in codes and officials wanted to craft guidelines for those looking to apply. Ordinance 929 would change zoning ordinance to modify standards for transitional housing uses and adds standards for special accommodation uses. Ordinance 930 would be a change to the overall City Code of Ordinances and create a licensing process for uses approved as transitional housing facilities or sober living homes.

The City earlier received a letter from the Fair Housing Center of Southeast and Mid-Michigan, which has been working with the Amber Reineck House. The City had received an application for a recovery supportive services home at 304 South Walnut Street targeting women recovering from addiction but the application was eventually withdrawn and the moratorium enacted. The Fair Housing Center alleged the proposed ordinances violated the federal Fair Housing Act, Michigan’s Elliott Larsen Civil Rights Act and the Persons with Disabilities Civil Rights Act, and alluded to legal action. That led Council to extend the moratorium out until February 24th to address some of the issues from the letter and make revisions.

Community Development Director Tim Schmitt offered an update during Monday night’s Council meeting. Schmitt says he had a very productive conversation with Courtney Atsalakis who is leading the project and they’ve had a really good relationship throughout the process. He said they had a very frank conversation and thinks they both understand where each other is coming from. Schmitt told Council while they are on the same page, he also couldn’t say someone might not sue the city – adding he thinks she understands where they’re going. He says under the revised ordinance and council’s direction, someone would submit for a special accommodation use first and foremost - which is frankly just a request to the city manager.

If it were to be denied, then Schmitt says essentially an applicant’s appeal would be to the second part of the ordinance - which is the transitional housing facility and would require a public hearing and more detail. Schmitt commented applicants are not required to submit anything really additional or apart from anything else the city typically requires – adding it’s hard to look at that and see an argument where someone would say it’s an undue burden – which is really what a lot of the crux of the discussion was before.

Council voted to refer the revised ordinance 929 to the Planning Commission, as staff felt it changed enough to warrant a new public hearing. Mayor Pro-Tem Steve Manor commented that he appreciates the revisions and thinks it’s workable. The Commission will review the ordinance at their January meeting and send a recommendation back to Council for review and potential adoption in February, prior to the moratorium expiring. (JM)