Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Following discrimination complaint, Safety Harbor may settle with group home

SAFETY HARBOR — Last year, the City Commission said no.

The proposed group home for mentally disabled young men was too close to another assisted living facility, in violation of state rules. It needed the city's permission to move into the small Harbor Woods Village subdivision, but commissioners unanimously refused to grant a local exception.

A proposed settlement up for consideration by commissioners next week could reverse that decision.

If approved, the settlement offer would allow the group home to operate at 59 Harbor Woods Circle. The city's insurance company also would pay $400,000 to the group home in exchange for a promise not to bring legal action against the city.

"It is recommended that the City Commission approve this settlement agreement in order to avoid the time, expense, inconvenience and risk of litigation," reads a staff summary on the agenda item.

It appears that no lawsuits have been brought against the city yet. However, the settlement discussion comes after the group home's owner, Bonnie Jo Hill, filed a federal housing discrimination complaint in September 2011.

A spokeswoman for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development said she could not comment on open cases.

The draft of the settlement denies any wrongdoing by the city. It also calls for two city staffers to take a "Fair Housing 101" course for training on the requirements of the Fair Housing Act.

"The city's going to do what's adequate and appropriate and necessary," Mayor Andy Steingold said, declining to comment further.

Jim Yacavone, the attorney appointed to represent Safety Harbor by the city's insurance company, did not want to speak about the settlement offer before Wednesday's City Commission meeting.

The commission held two closed-door sessions to discuss the issue this summer. Meetings to discuss legal strategy are legal under Florida's Government-in-the-Sunshine law.

In April 2011, Hill sought conditional use approval from the city to open the group home for up to six men ages 17 to 24. After renovating the house, she discovered that the assisted living facility Melody Place sat less than 300 feet away. State law says that residential care facilities cannot operate within 1,000 feet of each other unless the local government approves. The new group home never opened.

Neighbors protested Hill's group home during a five-hour hearing. Represented by an attorney, they complained that having two group homes in the community would tank their property values. They also feared it would threaten the safety of their children and set a precedent for clusters of facilities.

"Unfortunately, I don't think there's been a change in neighbor sentiment," Hill's attorney, Richard Heiden, said recently. "But there's a better understanding of the city regarding its legal obligations."

The settlement is among several agenda items for Wednesday's meeting. Commissioners will hold a second public hearing on the budget and tax millage rate. They also plan to discuss suggested guidelines for the city's stormwater responsibilities.

The meeting starts at 7:30 p.m. at City Hall, 750 Main St.

Stephanie Wang can be reached at (727) 445-4155 or swang@tampabay.com. To write a letter to the editor, go to tampabay.com/letters.

Following discrimination complaint, Safety Harbor may settle with group home 09/14/12 [Last modified: Friday, September 14, 2012 6:43pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Baker cautious on Pride politics

    Elections

    Rick and Joyce Baker strode down Central Avenue Sunday amid rainbow flags, corporate booths, and blaring music of the St. Pete Pride Festival.

    St. Petersburg mayoral candidate Rick Baker chats Sunday with people at the St. Pete Pride Festival. As mayor, Baker did not sign a Pride parade proclamation, but now he says he would.
  2. Rays' bullpen stars lit up in loss to Orioles

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Saturday it was the soft underbelly of the bullpen that let one get away from the Rays, incurring the wrath of the team's faithful followers, who wondered why the high-leverage guys weren't pitching.

    Rays closer Alex Colome, coming in with the score tied in the ninth, allows three runs in his second straight poor outing.
  3. Lightning among early suitors for defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman said he planned to explore free agency for potential needs, which include bolstering his blue line and adding a wing or two.

    Defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk, who can be a free agent Saturday, counts the Lightning among his early suitors.
  4. Senate leaders try to appease members as support for health bill slips

    National

    WASHINGTON — Senate Republican leaders scrambled Sunday to rally support for their health care bill, even as opposition continued to build outside Congress and two Republican senators questioned whether the bill would be approved this week.

    Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, speaking to reporters on Capitol Hill on Thursday, is one of the five Republican senators who announced they cannot support the health care bill as drafted.
  5. Top things to do in Tampa Bay for the week of June 26-July 2.

    Events

    Vans Warped Tour: The festival returns Saturday to St. Petersburg's Vinoy Park, featuring shock-metal icons Gwar, hardcore punks Sick Of It All, ska band Save Ferris and indie-pop group Never Shout Never ($39.50-$49.50). vanswarpedtour. …

    Crowd for the Motionless in White band at the 2014 Vans Warped Tour at Vinoy Park, Friday, July 25, 2014.  CHERIE DIEZ   |   Times