Residents want tighter control of group homes

Knoxville News-Sentinel (TN), 2014-04-01

April 01 --Neighborhood representatives at a public meeting Monday urged the Metropolitan Planning Commission to look at tightening regulations on group homes.

About 12 people attended a meeting at the City County Building in which MPC Executive Director Mark Donaldson talked about group living facilities and the possibility of a city ordinance amendment to control them.

Donaldson said Knoxville City Council has asked MPC to study the issue and residents from Fountain City, Old North Knoxville and other neighborhoods say this is likely the result of pressure they have put on City Council to take some action.

Donaldson said Knoxville's ordinance only has regulations for two types of group facilities -- halfway houses and rooming and boardinghouses.

"And nothing else," he said "There is no definition of a group home."

Old North Knoxville resident Lauren Rider said there are now several halfway houses in that neighborhood and residents are worried there will be more.

"I see the need for the services they provide, but I don't believe that creating a whole block of halfway houses and changing the nature of a neighborhood is a good thing," she said.

Donaldson discussed some of the ways other cities, such as Memphis ; Raleigh, N.C. , and Portland, Ore. , have crafted regulations on group homes. Some of these spell out the types of buildings that can be used, set a maximum number of residents, a minimum building size, distance requirements from other homes and other guidelines.

Carlene Malone , a Fountain City resident and a former City Council member, said regulations should limit the number of people rather than the number of rooms. Otherwise a building might have 12 rooms but 24 people. Rider and others thought a distance requirement might keep an agency from concentrating several houses on one block.

Donaldson said he will take the input from the group and work on some proposed ordinance language and recommendations MPC can consider at April 10 meeting. If MPC commissioners sign off on it, the ordinance will then go before City Council for consideration.


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