Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Bill would allow subdivision-styled communities for the developmentally disabled

TALLAHASSEE — Parents of developmentally disabled children from Pasco, Leon and Broward counties had an idea they thought would help their kids: create new subdivisions that would serve as safe havens for special-needs people to live, eat, dine and play.

But an existing law prevents special-needs homes from being established within 1,000 feet of each other, so the parents began lobbying lawmakers to rescind it. The parents hope to clear the way for a cluster of communities catering to those with autism, Down syndrome, cerebral palsy and other disabilities.

A bill to rescind the 1,000-foot law has passed in the Senate and is awaiting a vote in the House. And it is triggering discussion of a larger question that advocates for the disabled have struggled with for decades: How best to integrate those with special needs into society?

Some warn that creating separate communities only ends up segregating those who are different.

"In our society, we call places like this institutions," said Kingsley Ross, who represents Sunrise Community Inc., a nonprofit organization catering to the developmentally disabled and the elderly. "People with developmental disabilities have to be in contact with good models of behavior. If you surround them with people that don't have normal types of behavior, what we are going to see is more people with bad behavior."

Others argue that the communities would give those with special needs a chance to be with people and families like them. Living among those who don't understand their situation sometimes leads to the disabled being ostracized, harassed or assaulted, said Bill Sammons, president of the nonprofit group Noah's Ark in Central Florida.

Sammons, the father of a 24-year-old with autism, has seen the difficulties of his boy, Drew, as he tries to stay safe.

"He can name, maybe, every road in Florida," Sammons said. "But then he won't look both ways crossing the street."

About four years ago, Noah's Ark won approval from the city of Lakeland to build a 56-acre community that would be home to 200 special-needs residents and 40 family members.

"He would have more freedom in the gated community," Sammons said.

The subdivision, dubbed Noah's Landing, would have a communal dining room for socializing, and pedestrian walkways between houses so residents could cross the street without fear. It would be a mix of single-family homes, apartment units and group homes.

The group homes were the flash point. Afraid that homes catering to addicts and the developmentally delayed would drive down property values, the state Legislature ruled that the homes could not be within 1,000 feet of one another.

Rep. Kelli Stargel, the Republican who represents Lakeland, introduced the legislation that would allow local governments to make exceptions for group homes to be within 1000 feet of each other. The lawmaker had learned there were other communities planned from Duval to Broward counties that would cater to the developmentally disabled and might have such group homes in them.

"This is trying to establish a neighborhood, if you will, that would be conducive to people who are developmentally disabled, similar to a 55-plus community," said Stargel.

Robert Samuels can be reached at rsamuels@miamiherald.com.

Bill would allow subdivision-styled communities for the developmentally disabled 04/26/10 [Last modified: Monday, April 26, 2010 10:49pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Looking Back: St. Petersburg does the Calypso with Jacques Cousteau (July 15, 1975)

    Celebrities

    This story appeared in the pages of the St. Petersburg Times on July 15, 1975. What follows is the text of the original story, interspersed with photos of the event taken by Times staff photographer Weaver Tripp.

    Jacques Cousteau (center), Sen. John T. Ware, R-St. Petersburg (left) and an unidentified man (right) speak to the media about potentially moving the Cousteau Society to the city of St. Petersburg.

TIMES | Weaver Tripp
  2. Hernando commissioners question sheriff's accounting of federal inmate dollars

    Local Government

    BROOKSVILLE — As Hernando County Sheriff Al Nienhuis and his staff presented his proposed 2017-18 budget earlier this month, county Commissioner Steve Champion threw out an unexpected question.

    Sheriff Al Nienhuis and the county fought over his department’s budget last year.
  3. Unused county property in Pasco could soon sprout community gardens

    Local Government

    NEW PORT RICHEY — Unused property in Pasco County may soon sprout community gardens that beautify neighborhoods and promote healthier lifestyles among residents, thanks to an ordinance passed unanimously Tuesday by the County Commission.

    A new Pasco ordinance allows the public to build community gardens and farms on county-owned property and also provides design, operations and maintenance standards for them.
  4. Treasure Island city manager search to start from scratch

    Local Government

    TREASURE ISLAND — City commissioners, disappointed with the number and quality of applicants for city manager, decided Tuesday to start over and hire an executive search firm.

    Treasure Island Commissioner Ken Keys thought adding former Madeira Beach city manager Shane Crawford to the pool would "bring a little too much drama.''
  5. Family escapes fire that destroys New Tampa home

    Fire

    A family is safe after an overnight fire destroyed a single-story home in New Tampa on Thursday, according to Tampa Fire Rescue.

    An overnight house fire destroyed a home at 10265 Estuary Dr in New Tampa on Thursday. The family's smoke detectors helped everyone get out of the house safely, fire officials said. [Tampa Fire Rescue]