Wednesday, March 05, 2008

NIMBYism Will Always Exist

What happens when good people try to do good things but have to do an end around to accomplish what they want? They cause discord to say the very least.

The issue at hand appears in a story in today's Spokesman Review. It revolves around the establishment of group homes for troubled youth. The headline reads Neighbors complain about group homes.

We are no different than many other communities where problems need to be addressed but no one wants the solution near them. More troubling in this case, however, is that by skirting the spirit of the law, ire has been stirred. Several dwellings have been purchased for the purpose of housing what has been marketed as homes for "anxious, depressed and gentle kids". These kids range in age from 13 to 24. I'd be upset too. Kids thirteen to twenty four with anxiety and depression are often not gentle.

Under Idaho law these homes are perfectly legal because they house fewer than eight. What bothers me is that the doctor and his wife who have undertaken this venture tried to get a permit in another community to open a home for 36 then withdrew their request after there was a substantial community outcry. This is when they opted for the smaller homes already allowed by law.

It occurs to me the issue isn't so much how many residents will be housed in each of these homes, but the fact that the surrounding neighbors weren't notified before the properties were purchased. That they acted within the law may be true, but I think the "spirit" was ignored. Especially since they had faced public outcry previously.

Gads, we're back to the same old saw aren't we? Communication! Open and above board. If the homes are permitted to remain as such, those kids will be eyed with suspicion by the neighbors. That should help their anxiety and depression.

The people establishing those homes will be viewed with suspicion because they didn't communicate. If group homes are in the same category as residential, perhaps that should be readdressed.

The sheriff's department says they have received only six calls since July in reference to two of the homes. We don't place six calls in a decade in our neighborhood! Other than a suicide threat they were mostly minor matter, the article continues.

I don't know how the surrounding neighbors feel, but to me a child 13 to 24 threatening suicide has more problems than those described as having "failed in traditional schools and have social problems such as a lack of friends or eating disorders, or who have been bullied or teased."

I hope none of them have access to firearms just because it's legal under the Second Amendment!


Bill McCrory said...

I can't read the article since I no longer subscribe to that newspaper, so I don't know where these homes will be. What we've seen in CdA is the so-called "good people trying to do good things" are intentionally evading the law, specifically the zoning ordinances. In many cases this is being done with the blessing of the Idaho Department of Correction and our faith-based institutions.

If the homes are in CdA and zoned in an "R" (for Residential) zone, they need a special use permit if they are being operated as a business. If they charge fees, they are a business. Many of these homes try very hard to remain under the neighborhood radar for fear of generating neighborhood animosity. In some instances the homes' managers criticize neighbors for not just coming over to visit, for not knocking on the door with a plate of cookies. What the managers fail to tell the news media is that in some instances their residents' behaviors are of the type that the police usually encourage calls to them rather than imitating Welcome Wagon. The special use permit requires a hearing, and many of these allegedly well-intended managers and sponsor do not want public hearings. They prefer to operate more or less clandestinely but with the tacit blessing of the City of CdA.

Not all of these homes and sponsor are dishonest. If you go to the CdA Planning Commission agenda for March 11, 2008, and look at item 4 under public hearings, you'll see how one organization is trying to comply with the law rather than follow the CdA way and evade it. The applicant is Maggie's Place, but the home will be called Mary's House. Simply by trying to follow the process and the ordinances this organization has improved its chances of succeeding in the neighborhood and attaining neighborhood support.

ThomG said...

Bill, you really should try to open up and look at things from more than 1 perspective; thinking you could offer something to a dialog when you won't even bother to read the article is ludicrous. The homes aren't in CdA, so your entire premise is wrong. But you'd know that if you were willing to get the facts.

Bill McCrory said...

Okay, Thom,

Give me the facts.

Identify accurately the address, the owner, and the resident manager (if there is one) of every group home in Coeur d'Alene operating in violation of Coeur d'Alene city ordinances.

Identify every faith-based organization that owns, operates, or participates in one or more of these homes operating in violation of city ordinances. Let's make sure that some of our public officials are not tacitly or explicitly supporting illegal and dangerous housing operations because they are members or regular attenders of some of these faith-based organizations. In short, let's make sure there really is a separation between government operations and religious proselytizing.

Explain why our Mayor and City Council and City Attorney are unwilling to aggressively investigate citizen complaints of group homes being operated in violation of city ordinances. Explain why our Mayor and City Council and City Attorney are potentially jeopardizing the safety of these homes' occupants by failing to inspect and ensure they are operating within the life safety codes adopted by the City. Explain why operators of legal bed & breakfast businesses, legal rooming houses, and legal group homes have to comply with city zoning ordinances and codes while the city turns a blind eye to illegal group homes. Explain why by that action alone, this Mayor and City Council is willing to subject lawfully operated businesses to fees and taxes yet not impose those same fees and taxes on illegally operated group homes.

Thom, you really should try to open up and look at things from more than one perspective. Try looking at this issue from the perspective of honest property owners who see the City ordinances as a social contract. All of us purchased our property in an area zoned for that property's lawful use. Our part of the social contract with the city is that we will abide by the ordinances. The city's part of the social contract is that it will enforce the ordinances diligently, fairly, and impartially so that those of us who are operating lawfully are not victimized by those who operate unlawfully. But we have a Mayor and City Council and some of their lackeys who feel that they are not obligated to enforce the zoning ordinances and city codes diligently, fairly , and impartially. They have demonstrated their willingness to ignore violations that damage neighborhoods and jeopardize neighborhood safety, peace, and tranquility.