Recovery residence clears a hurdle

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The Waterloo City Council on Monday night provided a boost in efforts to open a women’s drug and alcohol recovery residence at the former independent senior living community known as Rosedale House at 228 Mueller Lane.

By a 5-3 vote, the council amended city ordinance by adding recovery residences as allowable in a B-2 General Business District with a special use permit.

The vote followed several voices mostly for but also against the amendment during Monday’s council meeting in the Waterloo High School auditorium.

Leisa and Adrian Martinez, who want to open a recovery residence known as Cornerstone Laine, were among those making their case before the council. They lost a daughter to an accidental overdose and hope to provide this resource to local women in need of help.

Cornerstone Laine will now need to apply for a special use permit and get that approved by the planning commission and zoning board.

“Our (special use) petition will be submitted immediately,” Leisa Martinez told the Republic-Times on Tuesday.  

Leisa Martinez said the planning commission meeting will take place July 12, with the zoning board meeting to follow. 

“It feels amazing,” she said of the vote. “The groundswell of support within the city has been overwhelming. We plan to work hard over the next month to educate the neighborhood surrounding Rosedale. We want to be good neighbors who are welcomed not only by the City of Waterloo, but by our neighbors as well.”

The amendment approved by the council defines recovery residence as “a nonprofit facility that offers a sober, safe and healthy living environment that promotes recovery from alcohol and other drugs use associated problems. Clients must be voluntary, not required as part of a prison sentence, and only permitted to leave the residence under direct supervision of employees. The facility must have employees on premises 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The minimum planned program stay shall be 60 days, and the maximum planned program stay shall be 90 days. Location shall not exceed 24 residents at any given time. Visitors shall be limited to one visit per resident per week to minimize traffic effects on the area. The residence shall also meet the standard set forth by the National Alliance for Recovery Residences and be certified by the Illinois Association of Extended Care within 12 months.”

Prior to the comment portion of the meeting, it was reminded to those present that this zoning text amendment was approved by the planning commission with a 6-0 vote and the zoning board of appeals voted 5-2 against recommending the change.

Mayor Tom Smith said five “yes” votes were required on the council for the amendment to pass.

Leisa Martinez opened the comment period by thanking all who have supported efforts to bring this to Waterloo.

“It’s become evident to me that the only barrier for the recovery residence text amendment is fear,” she told the audience. “However, once educated on the facts, the vast majority of citizens and officials have overcome their fear.”

In his remarks, Adrian Martinez said Cornerstone Laine wants to make a difference in the lives of women needing help.

“They’re not convicts,” he said. “They’re good girls that have made mistakes. We will save lives if you join us and work together.”

Local attorney Mark Scoggins, who represents the Martinezes, said that “no one claims that any committee or board of Waterloo has any intention to discriminate against disabled people,” adding he wasn’t there to “bring a lawsuit.”

He did stress, however, that it’s against the law to discriminate against people with disabilities, violating the Fair Housing Act, Americans With Disabilities Act and the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

“This is a chance for the City of Waterloo to elevate themselves in the eyes of their citizens and other communities,” Scoggins said.

The attorney seemed to be addressing a legal memorandum sent to city officials Friday by Waterloo Listens administrator Amanda Chase, who is an attorney with Strellis & Field in Waterloo.

Speaking at the meeting, Chase thanked city officials for looking at this memorandum “because people who are in recovery are protected under the Fair Housing Act.”

Chase also said a document with 195 signatures gathered in support of passing the zoning text amendment was submitted to the city.

Also among the speakers was Sheri Black, 40, of Waterloo, a former heroin addict of 18 years who has been clean for three years. She said the lack of local resources for addicts to  receive help is a problem.

“Maybe I wouldn’t have been on heroin for 18 years of my life had I had access to those types of resources,” she said.

Black added that she’s seen friends overdose and die.

“Same problem,” she said. “Lack of resources.”

Art Deno of St. Louis-based nonprofit ACPD, who is partnering with the Martinezes in Cornerstone Laine, said he received seven overdose calls from Monroe County in the past month along with two suicide attempts.

“I just got a call from a lady who moved out of Monroe County because her street was infatuated with addiction up and down the houses,” Deno said. “Her daughter was getting high from one house to another.”

Deno added that “the city, the county is crying for help,” and this is a chance for Waterloo to do something about it.

“The community will thrive from this,” he said.

One resident of the Westview Acres subdivision located near the proposed recovery residence voiced his opposition.

“We do not want this. I’m serious,” Mike Presson said. “It’s going to create more traffic. They don’t say anything about how many Waterloo residents are actually going to be there. There’s other places to go get this. There’s other uses for that building.”

Presson also pointed out that a petition against the changes signed by 72 residents was presented to the zoning board.

Ron Hagenow, one of the zoning board members who voted against recommending this amendment, pointed out to the council that a B-2 district is intended for certain highway-oriented commercial activities and most B-2 areas in Waterloo are near homes.

“A recovery center does not appropriately belong in a B-2 area,” Hagenow said. “You have the homeowners trying to fight the 800-pound gorilla in the room. They’re insinuating that we’re discriminating. We’re not discriminating! All we’re saying is we don’t want a recovery area in a B-2 area.”

Speaking before the council vote, Ward II Alderman Jim Hopkins said that after visiting recovery centers in Madison County and East St. Louis, he requested the amendment needs more sentences to clearly spell out required NARR buffering standards and limits before he would be in favor.

Waterloo City Attorney Dan Hayes said the current definition as written already covers the NARR standards and that “if this is one of their requirements or suggestions, I’m sure the Martinezes can follow that.”

Leisa Martinez confirmed that the plan is to also purchase the lot behind 228 Mueller Lane for buffering and assured the entire Cornerstone Laine property would be fenced in.

The council then voted, with Hopkins, fellow Ward II Alderman Jim Trantham and Ward IV Alderman Clyde Heller voting against. Aldermen voting in favor of the amendment were Steve Notheisen, Matt Buettner, Stan Darter, Kyle Buettner and Russ Row.

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