The Milford Planning Commission was met with a large number complaints about a proposed ordinance that would regulate sober houses in the Village.

At Tuesday night’s meeting roughly 100 people, many in long-term recovery from substance abuse, spoke in opposition of the ordinance. The ordinance set guidelines and definitions for temporary housing in a supportive living environment for adults healing from drug or alcohol addiction. Much of the proposed ordinance was taken from or based on ordinances from similar communities that have adopted them.

The ordinance separates sober housing into two categories; houses with 6 or fewer residents, and houses with 7 or more. The smaller homes would be allowed by-right in single family districts. The larger would require a higher level of scrutiny with a conditional land-use permit and would have to be located in a multi-family district.

Many who spoke felt they were being stigmatized by the language in the ordinance and were being compared to criminals. A major point of contention was a section on separation requirements which would make it unlawful to allow the community service facility, or sober house, to be located within 250 feet of another like-facility and located within 500 feet from parks, schools, churches, and other recreational areas. The proposed language does allow for a waiver from the separation requirement. Others felt it was violating the Fair Housing Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Resident and part-owner of Milford Counselling Rhett Reader said the ordinance was based on fear. He said they aren’t bringing blight to the community or devaluing properties. He continued by saying the ordinance lacks everything a healthy community would want to have to support recovery.

Tyrone Township Supervisor Mike Cunningham was present and said that while he appreciates what the Village is doing for its community, it feels like they are lumping sober living in with convicted felons. He said sober living means no drugs and no alcohol. He urged the Commission not to put road blocks in front of people trying to get better.

While most who spoke were negative on the ordinance, a few spoke in favor of there being a need for some regulation to be put in place. Some asked, how many people are too many people living in one space? Another was worried about what a relapse might mean.

Planning Commission Chairman John Heidt said there was a lot to take away from the residents’ comments. He said they learned a lot from people who lived that life and it was very educational. He said he thought it would be a good idea for them to get together with some representation from that group and the legislative body in Milford and start working together to come up with good solutions. He said this isn’t an “us versus them thing, it’s a we thing.”

Commissioner David Ebert said later in the meeting that the resident’s view was that this ordinance was hostile towards them, while the commission’s view coming in was that it was a technical land use issue. Planning Consultant Nick Lomako said the point of the housing is to mainstream recovery, but if you let the homes cluster together, it runs the risk of turning a neighborhood that feels residential into one that feels institutionalized. He admitted that the language used, however, was probably severe.

Heidt said this is just an early draft and the first time the Planning Commission has seen the ordinance. A copy of it can be found through the link below, or by stopping in at the village office building. (MK)