Sunday, January 21, 2007

If these abused foster youths are nonviolent, then rich people are being a-holes

Foes may test group home's zoning
But others think exemption applies
Yetter, Deborah. Louisville Courier-Journal, Jan. 17, 2007, pg. B1.

Some residents who don't want a group home for teenage boys to open off Newburg Road are prepared to challenge a state law that would allow it to open without a zoning change, a lawyer said yesterday.

Kenneth Plotnik, a lawyer hired by some opponents, said he believes the law doesn't apply to group homes such as the one Brooklawn Child & Family Services plans to open in a house on Schuff Lane.

Plotnik said the state law that exempts residential care facilities from additional zoning restrictions is meant for "a family or homelike setting" such as a foster home.

"A homelike setting in my mind requires a parent," he said.

But several people familiar with the state law said residents probably would lose a court fight challenging the law. Among them is state Rep. Tom Burch, D-Buechel, who supported the law when the General Assembly passed it in 1990.

"I know exactly what that law said, and I knew what it was going to do," Burch said.

Louisville Metro Council member Jim King, D-10th, who lives near the proposed home and represents the area on the council, said yesterday that he would accept the home if it survives a zoning challenge.

Previously he characterized youths who would live there as potentially violent and dangerous.

"If they are legally within their rights, I'll be one of the first people over there to meet the young men and try to make them feel welcome," said King.

Brooklawn, a residential center for abused and neglected youths, bought the five-bedroom house last year and plans to use it as a group home for eight teens from about age 16 through 18 who have completed treatment and are moving toward independent life.

Most would be victims of abuse and neglect, David Graves, Brooklawn's president, has said.

Brooklawn staff would supervise the youths.

Plotnik declined to identify the residents he represents but said they are ready to challenge the home in court. He said he will first ask local zoning officials to reconsider their stance that the home, zoned for residential use, doesn't require a zoning change or permit to operate.

Donovan Fornwalt, director of government affairs for the Council on Mental Retardation in Louisville, doubts opponents will prevail on the zoning issue.

Federal and state law support the provision that allows people with emotional or physical disabilities to live in settings such as group homes without zoning changes, he said.

Fornwalt said he hopes Brooklawn and residents can work out an agreement without a court fight.

"Ultimately, we want the neighborhood to be at peace with this decision," he said..

In a related development, opponents have dropped plans for a protest rally at Brooklawn Jan. 27.

Graves said he is relieved. He said Brooklawn hadn't planned to allow any protesters onto its property on Goldsmith Lane.

Neighborhood resident Robin Burnham said she helped prepare the flier calling for the protest and saying the home would bring "an alien element" into the neighborhood.

She said opponents are considering a protest rally at another location but haven't finalized plans.

Burnham said she opposes the group home because she believes the boys who would live there should live in a more structured setting, such as a foster home with parents. She also said boys in the group home might feel out of place in the "wealthy" neighborhood.

"I think it leads to more resentment about their situation," she said. - BULLSHIT

Graves said Brooklawn would prefer to place children in foster and adoptive homes, but an acute shortage of such placements has forced Brooklawn to try to find other solutions for teens who have completed its program but have no home to return to.

"Everyone here at Brooklawn would wholeheartedly agree that foster and adoptive homes are preferable, but they are not forthcoming," he said.


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