Posted by: Patricia Salkin | April 22, 2009

No Fair Housing Act Amendment Violation Where Township Did Not Discriminate and Applicant Failed to Prove Accommodation was Reasonable and Necessary

Haven Chemical Health Systems purchased a six-bedroom, four-bath house in a district zoned rural residential intending to use the house as a residential treatment facility for 10 chemically dependent people. Although the Township zoning code only allows a state-licensed residential facility to serve six or fewer individuals, Haven argued that there is a therapeutic benefit in having a greater number of residents in the home, but provided no evidence to support his argument. Haven’s application for a variance and a conditional use permit to allow10 residents was denied.  The applicant asked the court to order the township to issue the variance and CUP, arguing that the Township violated the Fair Housing Amendments Act (FHAA), the Minnesota Human Rights Act, state municipal planning law, and the federal civil rights law. 

                    

The Minnesota Court of Appeals upheld the Trial Court’s dismissal.  The Court noted that the FHAA requires the township to make reasonable accommodations in its rules, policies, and practices so that a disabled person has an equal opportunity to use a residential dwelling.  However, the court found that the group home owner failed to explain how the accommodation it requested is reasonable and necessary and concluded he was not entitled to the accommodation under the FHAA.  The Court found that the Township did not discriminate under the FHAA as it permitted a residential treatment facility in the requested location for six persons – just not ten. The Court said that, “Appellant’s rationale that a ten-person facility provides more effective group therapy than a six-person facility does not fulfill the statutory requirement that an accommodation be reasonable and necessary to afford a handicapped person the equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling.”

 

The Court also concluded that the Township did not violate state law in denying the conditional use permit and the variance, and that Haven’s substantive due process rights were not violated since there was no protectable property interest.

 

Haven Chemical Health Systems, LLC v. Castle Rock Township, 2009 WL 67036 (1/13/2009).

 

The opinion can be accessed at: http://www.lawlibrary.state.mn.us/archive/ctapun/0901/opa080344-0113.pdf


Responses

  1. Given that there is ample evidence available that recovery communities and halfway houses need 8 to 12 residents to be therapuetically and financially successful, one can only conclude that the plaintiffs simply failed to introduce this evidence through appropriate expert witnesses.

    It continues to amaze me at how many of these cases get decided because one side or the other fails to produce the evidence that exists. I’d swear that the attorneys are too lazy or cheap to retain the proper experts who can make their case — especially when it comes to community residence Fair Housing cases.


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