A Raleigh City Council committee nixed an effort to put more distance between group homes, with one councilor calling the proposal “illegal.”
Group homes, also known as a supportive housing residence, house disabled people, abused women and children and other disadvantaged groups.
The City Comprehensive Planning Committee recommended denying a citizen petition Wednesday to widen the minimum distance between supportive housing residences from 375 yards to 880 yards, or a half mile.
Councilor Bonner Gaylord called the proposal “discriminatory and illegal.”
The committee also asked staff to find out how many of these facilities currently exist and whether it would be legal for the city to change the maximum number of residents from 12 to eight.
The text change will go to the full council next week for a final vote.
According to the Planning Commission, as it stands, the zoning code is compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Changing distances to 880 yards might make it non-compliant, go against the 2030 Comprehensive Plan, and “unnecessarily over-regulates these uses.”
“It really does limit the ability for new uses to be established throughout the residential areas of the city, particularly those areas that they normally would gravitate to, which would basically be existing housing stocks and more affordable houses,” said Greg Hallam of the Planning Department about the proposed distance change.
The proposal stems from a citizen petition presented to the City Council, which was referred to the Law and Public Safety Committee for review.
According to a zoning staff report, the petitioner told Law and Public Safety Commission members that group homes hurt neighborhood property values and that there should be some regulations to “minimize the concentration of these facilities in affordable areas.”
Planners said some areas of the city might have an “oversaturation” of group homes because there was no minimum zoning requirement before 1994. A Planning Commission report states that the current code seems “adequate” in preventing “overconcentration,” but that it could eventually strain older and affordable neighborhoods.
Hallam said the Planning Commission discussed other options to prevent saturation, such as annual facility registration and reducing the maximum number of residents from 12 to eight — a move the Planning Commission felt would have an “immediate impact.”
“It’s not necessarily the spacing requirement to facilities, but having too many people living in one facility,” Hallam said. “Then, of course, personalities begin to clash and there’s potential for significant impacts on the immediate neighbors.”
Councilors asked how many group facilities exist. Hallam said the exact number is not known because such facilities are not required to register annually with the city and only require a zoning permit before opening.
“There’s probably 300 to 400 facilities that had initially applied; we can’t validate that they’re all operational at this time,” Hallam said.
According to Assistant Zoning Enforcement Administrator Robert Pearce, they usually find out if a
facility is not operational through new applicants, who are responsible for checking that information.
Hallam, Pearce, and councilors agreed annual registration would help to determine which facilities
remain operational. A state or county database might also provide the information, they said.