Lawsuit Filed Against Herriman City
Nov 06, 2015 11:45AM ● Published by Rachel Hall
By Rachel Hall
South Valley - Herriman City and members of the city’s planning commission have been named in a lawsuit filed by Attorney Ted McBride on behalf of his clients Clyde Kenison, Mike DeMie and Renew Wellness & Recovery.
McBride’s clients are seeking a variance to a zoning law from Herriman’s planning commission in order to open a residential treatment facility – a request that was recently denied; resulting in the lawsuit based off of The Fair Housing Act under the federal statute of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which prohibits housing discrimination for reasons such as race, religion, sex and disability.
“The dispute is really over a request for a variance to that zoning requirement. My clients are interested in opening up a residential treatment, drug and alcohol rehabilitation center, for women.” McBride said. “People would be living there as well as getting therapeutic treatment – because it involves living there, the Fair Housing Act is actually implicated. And under the Fair Housing Act, recovering addicts are considered disabled people.”
Opposition from community members has been evident in public meetings since the process to open the facility began earlier this year. DeMie attended council meetings to provide additional information as well as respond to questions and concerns from residents and city staff about the proposed facility.
“We went down to the planning commission with this [variance] request. There was quite a bit of public input; residents voicing an objection to the application, voicing their concern about having a rehab in their neighborhood,” McBride said. “I think that the opposition to it is fueled by incorrect stereotyping of people in recovery and how these houses operate. It’s a women’s facility. It’s only for people who are there voluntarily. Residents are people that have problems and are voluntarily seeking help.”
Herriman City Mayor Carmen Freeman noted that the city is aware of the federal statute, but local ordinances still have a precedent when it comes to making local decisions, such as a zoning variance.
“The municipalities that have these facilities within their boundaries also have the right to enact their city ordinances such as occupancy, parking, and other issues relative to the city and they [McBride’s clients] need to comply with those. Federal statute doesn’t give them an absolutely freewill to do anything they want to do,” Freeman said.
Freeman acknowledged that the treatment facility has the right to open within the city, but indicated city obligations also need to be met.
“We’ve asked them to provide certain information. They have not done so. That’s why the denial is in place. It’s that simple. We are more than willing to comply with their request provided they comply with information we’ve asked for them to provide to us,” Freeman said.
“I’m at a loss at what he’s referring to – the regulations and requirements,” McBride said.
Damages valued at approximately $60,000 to $100,000 a month are being sought in the lawsuit, according to McBride.
“We have three purposes for the lawsuit. The first is to basically get an order directing the planning commission to provide reasonable accommodations and allow us to operate the home. That is the principle basis of the lawsuit. The lawsuit also has a claim for lost profits that will grow as every month passes. We are also seeking reimbursement of attorney’s fees,” McBride said.
Freeman indicated that McBride’s clients have never approached the city to speak with the city attorney or ask how the issue can be resolved out of the court system.
“There has been no phone call or any offer to reach out to our city attorney to say, ‘What can we do so that we don’t have to file a lawsuit or how do we get this thing settled?’ All they have to do is reach out to our city attorney and say, ‘Hey, what do we need to do?’ and we will get [them] the information,” Freeman said.
The mounting cost of the lawsuit, which will continue to grow for as long as it takes to reach a resolution on the issue, is not the primary focus for Herriman City.
“We’re not going to be forced into issues based on financial obligations. We are going to stand firm in defending or city and our citizens based on the requirements we require of everyone,” Freeman said.
McBride said that Herriman City is not only permitting violations of laws that are in place for the protection of disabled people, but also should be willing to help individuals seeking to help themselves.
“Addiction is a societal problem and it’s in everyone’s interest that people that want help and seek recovery have a place and an opportunity to do it,” McBride said.