Group home applicant tables Delsy site
York, Sprague sites pass without protest; Delsy residents say street is poor fit
Close to 80 or so, mostly Delsy Drive residents, attended the Feb. 22 planning commission meeting to hear the applicant’s proposal and voice their concerns about the Delsy group home. Photo by JAIME ANTON
NORTH ROYALTON - The controversial group home for disabled adults proposed for Delsy Drive was tabled by the applicant at the Feb. 22 planning commission meeting after residents and a councilman voiced concerns this particular "problematic street" was not the right fit.
The two other proposed sites for York and Sprague roads passed unanimously with little protest.
Upwards of 80 people, many Delsy neighbors, attended the lengthy meeting.
Law Director Tom Kelly prefaced by explaining the federal Fair Housing Act of 1968 and its 1988 amendments prohibit discrimination of the disabled, adding group homes are not viewed as businesses but as residential homes.
The proposals
Michael Cloud, president of North Coast, the project's design builder and engineer; Joseph Kowalski, business development director for The MENTOR Network, the applicant; and a few family members of future group home tenants addressed planning to speak on the project and need.
These homes are what are referred to as ICF/IDD, Intermediate Care Facilities for Individuals with Developmental Disabilities. These community-based residences enable adults with intellectual and development disabilities the ability to live as independently as possible in a family setting that provides 24/7 support staff and clinical services.
Each proposed home is about 2,200 square feet, has five bedrooms for five residents. Placement of each driveway and lighting - which was said to be comparable to average residential lighting - was considered to minimize neighbor impact, Cloud explained. The York site will add extra stormwater features to ease potential issues for an adjacent neighbor.
The three proposed sites were selected because of proximity to one another and guardians.
Cloud said these are not homes or halfway houses for juvenile delinquents, adults recovering from addiction, mentally ill or released convicts. Planning clarified these homes will never be used for those purposes even if they are sold in the future because the conditional site use permit forbids it. When the homes have reached their useful life, Cloud said they would be repurposed into single-family residences.
Cloud asked the audience to imagine if their own children were disabled.
"What would you want for them? I'd want them living in a safe, clean, well-built and well-maintained home," he said. "It's about doing the right thing and giving these folks a quality of life and a safe, functional environment."
The future tenants are currently housed in a former Shoney's restaurant that's been converted into living space in Parma.
"We need to do something about that just as soon as possible," Cloud said.
The objections
Ward 1 Councilman John Nickell, who represents Delsy residents, said repeatedly the neighborhood's objection has nothing to do with the tenants and everything to do with the physical structure being constructed on what he calls a "problematic street." He said the additional stormwater it would bring to a neighborhood with a watery history, added traffic and wear and tear to the road and added noise and light with the driveway just 10 feet away from a neighbor's bedroom due to the small lot size were also issues.
"Your intents are beautiful, the application, what you are doing, but the house doesn't fit there, (the lot is) too small; there are no sidewalks; the culvert, there's no proper drainage and you are going to add more water," Nickell said. "Take the time to find another lot."
Josh Martino, a resident adjacent to the Delsy site who is also a pastor and uncle of a boy with a disability, echoed Nickell that it's not the tenants but the issues the building itself poses, expressing concern also about the resale value of neighboring properties. He cited an example on Wallings where owners adjacent to a group home received $40,000 less than their asking price after their home took nearly two years to sell.
"This is about a business that is being opened in a residential neighborhood that is disguised to look like it fits and belongs in that neighborhood . The home will currently serve as a home to IDD and ICF residents but what prevents this home from becoming a halfway house that my family with my two young sons would be forced to live next to, since alcoholism and drug rehabilitation are now listed as disabilities by the federal government?" Martino asked. "My resale value will absolutely suffer. It already has."
Martino contacted a real estate agent who confirmed his fear.
He also made mention to a recent lawsuit involving Missouri MENTOR, part of The MENTOR Network, where he claims a foster child with a sexual abuse history, unknown to the foster parents who do not live in Ohio, was placed into their home and molested their 3-year-old grandson.
Jo Spargo, executive director of REM Ohio a partner of MENTOR, said the organization is committed to being a good neighbor and developing a mutually-respectful relationship with neighbors in North Royalton.
As for the lawsuit, Spargo said it is a requirement of the Missouri Department of Mental Health and REM's practice to share comprehensive individual service plans (ISPs) with foster parents.
"For each child or adolescent, this includes information about his or her past behavior and history as well as supervision requirements."
Delsy tabled
Timothy Miller, planning's acting chairman, said he was relieved the developer heard residents' concerns and tabled the issue and hopes an alternate can be found.
"York and Sprague were a good fit, but Delsy was a tough one. I'm glad the developer saw the issues presented by the residents and tabled it," he said. "Maybe we can find an alternate solution that better fits everyone's needs."
The city is working with The MENTOR Network to find a more suitable lot.