As anticipated, Human Support Services is taking the village of Hecker to federal court over the recent denial of a special use occupancy permit to allow four developmentally disabled persons each to reside in two group homes to be built in the Freedom Village subdivision.
The lawsuit was filed Oct. 4 in U.S. District Court in East St. Louis, alleging violations of the Fair Housing Act, Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.
In addition to HSS and the Monroe County Apartments 4 Association, plaintiffs in the suit include two individuals who would live in the facilities and are identified only by their initials and names of guardians. Attorneys for the plaintiffs are Thomas E. Kennedy III of St. Louis and Otto Faulbaum of Waterloo.
Plaintiffs are asking the court to order the village to issue this special use permit and a certificate of zoning compliance so HSS can construct and operate these homes.
Current village ordinances permit three unrelated adults to reside together in a single dwelling, hence the HSS special use request for four to do so. As previously reported, the number of residents is based on funding requirements to make these group homes feasible.
On Sept. 3, the Hecker Zoning Board of Appeals voted 5-2 to recommended approval of the special use permit. But the village board reversed that recommendation on Sept. 10, voting unanimously against the request.
Neighbors expressed concerns at both meetings about possible problems that would result from locating these homes in the residential setting of their community. Concerns included traffic, a lack of adequate facilities in the community, and potential negative impacts on property value of adjacent residences.
“The complaints of the neighbors were irrational and based upon groundless fear of persons with disabilities,” the federal filing alleges.
The filing also states that a petition signed by residents was submitted to the village board in September, in which “approximately eight residents threatened to take legal action against the village if permission was granted to permit construction of these homes.”
Since the Sept. 10 vote, the village has advised HSS in writing that it will withhold a building permit for construction of the group homes, the filing states.
Hecker Mayor Charles Kujawski said Tuesday he has not yet seen the filing and had no comment at this time.