YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Youngstown’s Board of Zoning Appeals declined requests for reasonable accommodations by two sober homes in the city.
Both of the houses are on Alameda Avenue in Youngstown, right off of 5th Avenue. Braking Point Recovery, a recovery center based out of Austintown, owns the homes. One of the homes has ten bedrooms and the other has seven.
The city discovered multiple people lived inside these houses — all of them unrelated.
Braking Point’s lawyer, Atty. Scott Kamenitsa, said the recovery center has been using the two houses as sober homes for over a year.
“Because of this environment, we’ve been able to provide here. These people have jobs and work daily. We’re proud of the progress they’ve made and, frankly, we’re doing as much as we can to fight this epidemic.”
The houses — which are zoned as single family homes, not multiple tenant buildings — violate city code by having too many people staying in them.
Braking Point never requested a zoning change for either house before moving in.
“In 40 years of public life, I have never seen such a flagrant disregard for a community’s laws,” said former Youngstown Mayor George McKelvey.
Over a dozen people weighed in on the issue at the zoning board’s meeting on Tuesday. The meeting was expected to last just 20 minutes but went on for over an hour and a half.
Some think the sober homes should stay, while most think they need to go.
“When you come and just walk over our zoning ordinances, walk over city regulations, it’s like, why are we here?” said Third Ward Councilman Nate Pinkard.
But not all were against the sober homes.
“I’m listening to each and every one of you and, quite frankly, I’m angry,” Dawn Cook said to those against the homes.
Kamenitsa argued that the sober homes fall under the Fair Housing Act, which protects the buyer from landlord discrimination. But the city still says it’s a violation of zoning code.
“So that’s why we’re handling this the way we are now, to bring this forward and, frankly, to implement all the internal regulations and policies that are required,” Kamenitsa said.
In the end, the board denied the requests 5 to 1.
Kamenitsa said Braking Point will be evaluating some things but has no further comment about the future.
Youngstown Mayor John McNally said it has a right to appeal the decision in court.