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Residents sue Bluffdale over rehab center

More than a dozen Bluffdale residents have filed a 3rd District Court lawsuit asking a judge to overturn an agreement between Bluffdale city and the Renaissance Ranch, a substance-abuse treatment center.

The suit, filed by neighbors of Renaissance Ranch, state that the city granted a conditional-use permit without the facility having to go through the proper steps.

The treatment center applied for a business license in February, which the city denied. Owner H.R. Brown filed a lawsuit against the city, citing a state law that says a residential facility that houses those who are disabled is permitted in a residential zone. People who suffer from drug and alcohol abuse are considered disabled under state law.

The city settled with Renaissance Ranch and granted a license to do business, as well as allowing it to stay in the residential zone.

Brown, who is relocating the facility from Park City, remodeled a home on a three-acre lot at 2829 W. 13800 South to house the patients. City officials said they weren't notified about the center until concerned neighbors asked about it.

Neighbors are concerned about safety issues, as well as legal issues they believe the city ignored. They noted that a school is nearby. They also fear parking problems and even possible violence in the area.

"What is a place like that doing next to a residential area and with a school about 300 feet away from the fence?" said Maureen Johnson, one of the neighbors who filed the lawsuit. "The whole thing hasn't been done honestly and rightfully."

Johnson said she and the other neighbors feel the City Council has been dishonest about the deal with the ranch and didn't tell the residents what type of permit was offered.

Court documents filed Tuesday said the petitioners hope the court will declare the agreement between Renaissance Ranch and the city void, as well as order the city "to follow statutory process for the granting of a conditional use permit found in its own ordinances and state law."

During the Bluffdale City Council meeting on Sept. 18, City Attorney Steven Homer said that federal law requires cities to allow group homes, and the federal law overrides city law on the issue.