(Alan Dooley photo)
The Hecker Village Board last Tuesday night voted unanimously to reject a request from Human Support Services for a special use occupancy permit to house eight developmentally disabled adults total in two group homes proposed in the Freedom Village subdivision.
The village board’s decision goes against a 5-2 vote by the Hecker Zoning Board of Appeals to recommend approval of the special use request.
The zoning board noted that its decision was consistent with the Federal Fair Housing Act, which requires the village to make “reasonable accommodations to rules and policies to afford disabled persons equal opportunity to use a dwelling.”
The HSS request sought permission for occupancy by four unrelated adults in each of the group homes. Existing village ordinances allow three unrelated adults to live in a home.
During the Sept. 3 zoning board meeting, HSS Executive Director Robert Cole said the proposed facilities’ funding mechanisms would make it economically difficult to operate them without four residents in each home.
Last Tuesday’s decision was met with applause from residents in attendance at Hecker Village Hall.
Cole responded to the vote with displeasure when reached Thursday by the Republic-Times.
“I was hugely disappointed – not only at the action of the village board, but at comments made by people waiting in the board room while the board was sitting in another room in closed session,” Cole said. “I think those comments were disparaging to people with disabilities.”
Cole went on to say his agency “has never had those kinds of comments from the public elsewhere in the county – specifically in Waterloo and Columbia, nor in Valmeyer when we considered a group house there.”
The Valmeyer group home effort was withdrawn over a property definition issue.
Cole said the next step for HSS would be to discuss the village board’s vote with all those involved in the project.
This would include the actu- al party requesting the special use permit, the Monroe County Apartments 4 Board of Direc- tors, which is made up of the executive committee of the HSS Board.
“I continue to be encouraged by state moves to transition disabled people from institutional settings to smaller, more home-like units in communities,” Cole said.
Hecker Mayor Charles Kujawski declined to comment on the matter when asked to do so by the Republic-Times.