Cornerstone Laine back on table

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With Waterloo recently amending city code to allow the city council to override zoning board decisions, Cornerstone Laine is seeking a redo.

A special use permit request for the women’s only recovery residence planned at 228 Mueller Lane, former site of the Rosedale House independent living facility near Route 3, was recently re-filed following the city’s code amendment. 

Now, Cornerstone Laine owners Adrian and Leisa Martinez are preparing for yet another saga, as the last attempt involved several concerned citizens. 

“The Martinezes have decided to re-file their petition for special use permit in the hopes that this time, the city will review the request in light of the overwhelming evidence supporting the suitability of the proposed use rather than on unfounded fears and speculation,” the American Center for Law and Justice’s Abby Southerland, who is representing the Martinezes, said in an emailed statement. “The Martinezes’ proposed recovery center would contribute in only positive ways to the community and provide life-giving help and hope to mothers, daughters and sisters.” 

Waterloo’s planning commission will meet on the matter this coming Tuesday, Oct. 12. They will then submit an advisory report to the Waterloo Zoning Board of Appeals. 

With this report, the zoning board will decide whether to approve the special use permit request on Thursday, Oct. 21. 

As per the code update, the Waterloo City Council will either affirm or reverse the zoning board decision at its Nov. 1 meeting. 

All three public meetings will be held at 7:30 p.m. in the Waterloo High School auditorium. 

Prior to the code amendment, the Martinezes’ plan to operate the proposed recovery residence seemed to have reached its end when the zoning board shot it down

Since this time, zoning board member Ron Hagenow, who was one of the four ‘nay’ votes, has stepped down. 

In turn, this time around the special use permit will face only six zoning board members: Ken Hartman Jr., William Boothman, Ken Gibbs, Leonard Loerch, Lauren Poettker and Larry Goessling. 

Waterloo Zoning Administrator Nathan Krebel said the Cornerstone Laine special use permit will need four zoning board votes to pass on Oct. 21. A 3-3 tie would result in an automatic denial. 

The original zoning board vote was 4-3 against.

Throughout this summer’s meetings, potential legal ramifications for a special use permit denial were discussed by members of both boards, the city council and public alike. 

After the zoning board voted down the special use request in July, Waterloo Alderman Steve Notheisen even said he believed the action was “discriminatory” and could open the city up to a lawsuit. 

“To allow the zoning board to deny the recovery center a special use permit is a denial of the civil rights of those recovering addicts and is a violation of our oath of office,” the alderman was quoted saying then. 

When asked if the Martinezes considered filing a lawsuit after the initial zoning board’s decision, Southerland issued the following response: 

“The Martinezes have hope that the city will reconsider its earlier decision and grant them the special use permit and that no legal action will be required. There are, however, several federal laws that apply here to protect the women who would be served by the recovery center and we are considering all legal options.” 

In August, the Waterloo City Council voted to approve adding the following language to the city’s code of ordinances dealing with special use permits going forward:

“The Zoning Board of Appeals shall submit the entire record and a written decision explaining the action taken on a special use permit petition before the next regularly scheduled city council meeting. At that meeting, the city council will either affirm or reverse the decision of the Zoning Board of Appeals. The decision shall be based only upon the record from the Zoning Board of Appeals hearing.”

Waterloo City Attorney Dan Hayes previously said that placing final decisions on special use permit requests in the hands of the city council is a common practice, but just something that had not been on the books in Waterloo.

The Cornerstone Laine matter began earlier this year with meetings on amending zoning language to include recovery residences as allowable in a B-2 General Business District with a special use permit.

After the planning commission voted for and the zoning board voted against such an amendment, the Waterloo City Council made the zoning text amendment happen with a 5-3 vote in favor.

Then came the special use permit process, which was approved by the planning commission on July 20 but denied by the zoning board July 21.

The Martinezes came up with the idea of Cornerstone Laine following the death of their daughter Chloe in 2019 due to an accidental overdose.

The Martinezes got in touch with Art and Beth Deno, who run a St. Louis-based nonprofit called ACPD that helps people and their families overcome addiction and its effects. 

ACPD stands for Austin Christopher Paul Deno, the name of Art and Beth’s son who died from an accidental overdose in 2016. 

Cornerstone Laine would be dedicated to helping women experiencing drug and alcohol addiction and provide a Christ-centered, supportive residential recovery environment for women ages 18 and above through a 90-day program that includes meals, peer support, 12-step programs and a Bible study for $8,000. Two scholarships would be available every 90 days, and residents can use various payment options if needed.

Some conditions were agreed to by the Martinezes as part of the planning commission’s initial special use permit approval. This included specifying the facility should be women-only, facility inspections every six months, clients detoxed before arriving to the facility, each client allowed a visitor once a week after one month of residency and clients not allowed to have a car or a job while residing at the facility. 

Security features were to include an alarm system, 24-hour supervision and locked doors and windows. 

Lastly as part of initial permit request, residents are to be there voluntarily and not as part of a court-mandated program.

It is not yet known if the same conditions will be requested as part of this new special use permit request.

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