Residents rally against unregulated Paradise Valley sober-living facility

A view of the intersection of Invergordon Road and Fanfol Drive in the Town of Paradise Valley where a sober-living facility has emerged. (Independent Newsmedia/Terrance Thornton)

A collection of residents are raising concerns regarding an alleged sober-living facility operating outside of established zoning privileges at 6710 E. Fanfol Drive in the Town of Paradise Valley.

“I have lived in the same house for 47 years,” said Paradise Valley resident Sande Simon in a Sept. 5 phone interview.

“My husband was on the town council and what has been going on he would have never allowed — we have a sober-living house at the end of our street.”

A sober-living facility, or sober home, as classified by both state and federal guidelines, seeks to help drug and alcohol addicts achieve sobriety and reintegrate into society at large. The 1968 Fair Housing Act was created to eliminate discrimination, allowing housing choices for all Americans despite, among other things, race, color, religious preference or gender.

The civil rights-era act established the Office of Fair Housing & Equal Opportunity at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which funnels grant dollars for outreach efforts to cities across the nation. The law’s 1988 amendments seeks to ensure all Americans, including recovering drug addicts and alcoholics, are treated fairly when seeking a place to call home.

However, records show operations at 6710 E. Fanfol Drive are outside of established bounds for the home-based business, according to Paradise Valley Town Manager Kevin Burke.

“There are 11 individuals in this home, with a maximum capacity of 14, and as such, my clients will be submitting a request for reasonable accommodation to request an accommodation to the requirement that five or less reside in this home,” said Amie Mendoza, a Phoenix-based attorney representing Pinnacle Peak Recovery, the operator of the sober-living facility, in an Aug. 11 letter to Paradise Valley Town Clerk’s Office.

Ms. Mendoza’s response came on the heels of a July 14 notice from the Town of Paradise Valley alerting the owner of the property — Sanja Moser — there appears to be code violations specific to a home-based business operating in a single-family neighborhood.

Outlined in Resolution 1252, which was adopted by Paradise Valley Town Council in 2012, are provisions — things like the proposed uses for the property, how it could impact the existing neighborhood and safety standards — for what is understood as “reasonable accommodations” for the disabled in an assisted-living or sober-living situation.

On Tuesday, Aug. 29 the Town of Paradise Valley declined the entity’s request for a reasonable accommodation citing an incomplete form that was hand-delivered a day earlier.

“This email is to inform you that the application for a reasonable accommodation that was hand-delivered to the Town of Paradise Valley on August 28, 2017 is incomplete and not in compliance with the requirements established by Resolution No. 2017-15,” said Town Clerk Duncan Miller in an email to Pinnacle Peak Recovery officials.

“The Request for Reasonable Accommodation application form you provided is out-of-date. A complete application is required before the application is deemed submitted, and any time frames for issuing a decision do not begin to run until a complete application is submitted.”

A call to a Pinnacle Peak Recovery representative — Tyler Tisdale — was not returned for comment.

At the end of this dead-end street is a sober living facility run by Pinnacle Peak Recovery to the chagrin of nearby neighbors. (Independent Newsmedia/Terrance Thornton)

A perplexing issue

Municipal leaders across Arizona say the regulation of sober-living facilities is a malaise of legality but local jurisdictions are entitled — through both state and federal law — to regulate the operations within a sober-living facility.

Fueling regulation pursuits here in Arizona was the adoption of HB 2107, which provides legal framework to provide checks and balances to who is inside and how a sober-living facility is allowed to operate.

In the Town of Paradise Valley, the reasonable accommodation process was established in 2012 to better manage and regulate local sober-living facilities following the letter of the law with stipulations including zoning rules specific to the criteria of an assisted-living facility.

Julie Pace

“There has been a recent proliferation of sober group homes in Arizona and throughout the country,” said Paradise Valley Councilwoman Julie Pace in a Sept. 6 statement.

“Part of the reason is the monies made available by the Affordable Care Act to support such facilities operating in residential settings. Prescott had 170 sober group homes community one year ago. During the past six months, Paradise Valley has experienced its third sober group home seeking to operate in a neighborhood.”

Councilwoman Pace says local zoning stipulations have built-in protections for neighborhoods when a legitimate operation emerges.

“When a new business wants to operate next to a home in an established neighborhood, concerns naturally arise regarding the number of vehicles present at the site, the flow of vans, type of services being provided, hours of operation, potential zoning code compliance issues from lighting to trash to noise, transparency of the operations, security concerns, application of deed restrictions and HOA rules, background regarding owner of property and the operator of the facility, applicability of licensing and TPT and rental tax rules, and more,” she said.

Councilwoman Pace also points out Paradise Valley zoning only allows for five non-related people to live under one roof.

“The town zoning ordinance provides that a maximum of five unrelated persons can live in a residence,” she said.  “For an operator to start a sober group home, it must seek an exception from the town to the five-person rule. For example, Pinnacle Peak Recovery seeks a maximum of 14 unrelated people to live at the sober group home facility.”

Councilwoman Pace also outlines the weight neighborhood chagrin often carries.

“A large part of the success or failure of whether a reasonable accommodation will be granted to allow the operation of a sober group home will depend on the neighbors, the evidence they present and their participation in the process,” she said.

“Neighbors — not the town — tend to have the most influence on whether the sober group home obtains approval to operate. Operators who are transparent and run a high quality, first-class operation have the best chance of winning over neighbors to quietly fit into a low density residential neighborhood.”

Councilwoman Pace contends a happy medium can be struck between sober-living facility and neighborhood.

“Education about the complex context in which sober group homes operate is critical,” she said. “Neighbors are surprised to learn the town cannot ban sober group homes. Neighbors who are concerned about a particular operator or location need to become actively involved and organized.”

Councilwoman Pace explains an Aug. 10 community meeting was held regarding the operations at 6710 E. Fanfol Drive.

“After a number of communications, I requested our town manager and town attorneys to hold a community meeting with the neighbors to help explain what the town can and cannot do to assist neighbors with concerns regarding a sober group home operating in their neighborhood,” she explained.

“The meeting occurred on Aug. 10 and was well-attended with a good robust discussion. The town manager did a great job in facilitating this community discussion and providing information and explaining the town’s role and limitations.”

Town leaders say no reasonable accommodation hearing has been set regarding operations at 6710 E. Fanfol Drive.

North Valley News Editor Terrance Thornton can be contacted at 623-445-2774 or at tthornton@newszap.com

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