By Associated Press - Wednesday, June 25, 2014

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (AP) - A Missouri nonprofit has filed a lawsuit contending that the city of Springfield violated federal and city laws when it ordered the closure of a group home for recovering alcoholics, drug addicts and sex offenders.

Recovery Chapel and its executive director, Farris Robertson, said in the federal lawsuit filed Tuesday against the city and its Board of Adjustment that the city’s refusal to allow the group home violates the Fair Housing Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act, as well as local zoning codes.

In March, the city said the group home had to move because it violated zoning codes by housing convicted sex offenders, The Springfield News-Leader reported ( ).

City Attorney Dan Wichmer said Tuesday that the city was expecting the lawsuit and “we’ll just follow it through to its logical conclusion.”

The conflict began last November when the first residents moved into the home and Robertson was told within a week that a citizen had complained. The city notified Robertson in January that the home violated city codes. And on March 14, Robertson was denied an occupancy permit for a group home because more than one person on probation and/or parole made the home a community corrections facility, not a group home, the city said.

He was given 30 days to close or relocate to an area of the city zoned for heavy manufacturing. Robertson said his organization did not have a contract for corrections services and challenged the city to prove the residents threatened public safety. He also argued that the property is a group home for people with disabilities.

Robertson told the Board of Adjustment earlier this month that all the sex offenders had left the home because of the conflict with the city, unwelcoming neighbors and media attention. Eight people with substance abuse or alcoholism problems currently live at the home, according to the complaint.

The plaintiffs are asking to be allowed to operate the property as a group home and are seeking actual and punitive damages.


Information from: Springfield News-Leader,

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