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OREM OKS GROUP HOME FOR 5 WITH DISABILITIES

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Reminded by the city attorney that Orem is already embroiled in a lawsuit over conditions attached to a group home for the mentally handicapped, the City Council carefully approved Tuesday night a group home for five teenage boys with disabilities.

"My legal advice would be that you grant the conditional-use permit with the awareness that even conditional-use permits are being challenged," said City Attorney Paul Johnson.The Danville Corporation has requested the permit for the home at 614 N. 840 East.

Johnson said the case of Bangerter vs. Orem before the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, Denver, arose when the city attached additional conditions to a request for a group home for mentally handicapped adults on 800 North.

Because the city asked for more supervisory personnel and the individual personalities of the men were discussed in public meetings, the Legal Center for People with Disabilities sued, said Johnson.

"We are in an active lawsuit where we actually granted the permit and still got sued," said Johnson. "Had we denied the permit, I've been advised the Justice Department would have brought suit."

Johnson said applications involving the Fair Housing Act and group-home individuals are extremely complex and pit the right to privacy against the right to information.

He said more cases are "coming down" in favor of those suing rather than in favor of cities who attempt to restrict access.

Council members asked if they could set a time limit for a review, restrict the age of the home's individuals or include a provision against the use changing from mentally handicapped teenagers to adults. "The bottom line is, no more restrictions can be made," Johnson said.

The attorney said postponement is not an option because the Fair Housing Act requires that cities avoid doing anything to make housing unavailable.

"My child will not harm anybody. We just want a nice place for them to be. I love my son," said one of the teenager's mothers.

Residents in the neighborhood said their concerns are over the safety of the five boys who will live in the home and unknown future occupants.

"The issue is not this group of boys," said Patrick Hayes. "We have no assurance that a less desirable group would ever come in. With that assurance, we would, in fact, welcome these boys. If you can't give us this, then vote against this. That's not discrimination. It's protecting our children."

"I'm not afraid to go to court," said Jeff Armstrong. Armstrong is leasing the home to Danville Corporation. "If things change, I would terminate the lease."

Mayor Stella Welsh said she believes the neighborhood to be "a fine one" with little interest in keeping out the teenagers solely on the basis of their disabilities.

"My personal concern is with the supervision. I don't think it's enough," said the mayor.

Danville has said the ratio will be two staff members to every four boys, with a skeleton staff at night.

"They need more than that," Welch said.

"I don't think we can deny this. I don't intend to deny it, but I wanted you to know how I feel."

Councilman Stephen Sandstrom said,"It sounds like there's basically nothing we can do."

Councilman Kelvin Clayton made the motion for approval with the condition that "no resident shall be allowed who is violent or who poses a direct threat to the physical safety of any resident."

Johnson said that single condition could be included and that "only if the state law allowing conditional-use permits is upheld."