State launches investigation into neighborhood discrimination
Feb 07, 2012 | 1637 views | 0 0 comments | 20 20 recommendations | email to a friend | print
—Jody Norwood/Tribune-Courier
A complaint of housing discrimination has been filed against residents of Benton’s Merrywood subdivision following a zoning dispute with a group home for disabled adults.
—Jody Norwood/Tribune-Courier A complaint of housing discrimination has been filed against residents of Benton’s Merrywood subdivision following a zoning dispute with a group home for disabled adults.
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By Jody Norwood

Tribune-Courier News Editor

jnorwood@tribunecourier.com

BENTON – Responding to an action filed with the circuit clerk’s office, a housing discrimination complaint has been filed with the Kentucky Commission on Human Rights.

The case centers around the use of a home in Benton’s Merrywood subdivision by Community Options, Inc. The non-profit corporation purchased the home last year, using it to house severly disabled individuals.

The problem, say neighbors, is that Merriwood is zoned R-1, the strictest zoning classification in the city. R-1 residences allow for single family occupancies only.

The zoning board said the group home was in violation of existing ordinances. Community Options CEO Robert Stack countered the claim, saying Kentucky law permits six to eight individuals with severe disabilities to live in both R-1 and R-2 residences maintained by approved agencies.

The Merrywood home is one of four residences in Benton maintained by Community Options.

“There was a question if they could do a group home in an R-1 zoning,” said attorney Martin Johnson, who serves as legal counsel for the city and is also a Merriwood resident. “We filed a complain in circuit court asking for a declaratory action.”

Johnson said it was a matter of zoning that he hoped the court would be able to clarify. Instead, residents of the subdivision were notified Jan. 20 of an ongoing investigation of housing discrimination.

“We just assumed they would respond,” Johnson said. “They didn’t. Their attorney filed a discrimination complaint.”

The Complaint for Declaratory Relief was withdrawn in January “pending resolution of a Complaint of Discrimination filed with the Kentucky Commission on Human Rights.”

The investigation is being conducted by the Kentucky Commission on Human Rights. Attempts to contact investigators with the Commission were unsuccessful.
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