Staff Report

 

     A group of beachside homeowners is mailing a flier to every house in eastern Delray Beach that outlines its efforts to prevent a clinic from housing large numbers of people in recovery in single-family neighborhoods. The mailing also urges residents to contact state and federal lawmakers to support the effort.

    The Beach Property Owners Association (BPOA) said that nearly 2,000 houses east of the Intracoastal Waterway and about 200 on the west side will receive the mailing during the week of Jan. 16.

    “We’ve had so many questions sent to us in e-mails and phone calls, we wanted to keep our membership informed,” said Andy Katz, vice-president of the BPOA board, which represents some 500 property owners.

  The mailing, expected to cost the BPOA about $3,000, explains the BPOA’s as well as the city’s efforts in the past several weeks to prevent the Caron Foundation from operating transient housing, known as sober houses in the rehabilitation trade, in single family neighborhoods near the ocean.

      But following a meeting with a Caron representative on Thursday, Jan. 12, Katz said the non-profit drug and alcohol treatment center said it intended to proceed with plans to house up to 14 recovering alcoholics or drug abusers in million-dollar-plus beach-area houses, despite the recent outcry from residents.

       Andrew Rothermel, Caron’s Florida chief operating officer, told Katz and other BPOA members that Caron had purchased two beach-area houses where recovering alcoholics or drug abusers could stay during treatment.

    They would be “highly motivated patients of influence and affluence,”  according to a fact sheet Rothermel gave the BPOA members. They would receive clinical counseling at Caron’s Boca Raton facility and would use the houses only for meals and rest, according to the fact sheet.

  Each patient would have a private bedroom and bath, with six in one house and eight in the other. The stays would be for 60 days or longer, but patients would not have their own cars and would be driven for treatment in unmarked vehicles, the fact sheet stated.

    Pennsylvania-based Caron came under intense public outrage and scrutiny last month when word leaked out that it planned to operate as many as two ocean-side sober houses to assist wealthy business executives, actors and athletes fight their addictions in well-appointed comfort.

      The city last spring approved Caron’s request for a sober house at 740 N. Ocean Blvd. to house up to seven recovering addicts. Caron bought the house through a local attorney in March 2011 for $1.6 million.

      On Dec. 19, 2011, Caron sought a second “reasonable accommodations” waiver of the city’s ordinance that limits to three the number of unrelated people living in single-family neighborhoods. That house is believed to be at 1232 Seaspray Ave., which had been on the market for $2.995 million. The house was sold early in January, but the buyer has not been revealed.

   Caron has refused to divulge the addresses of the two houses it purchased, claiming to do so would violate the medical confidentiality of addicts in recovery.

  The BPOA mailing said that the city has 45 days to study the Seaspray Avenue request to allow up to seven unrelated people living in the house while they are in recovery. If the city limits or rejects the request, Caron has 30 days to appeal to the City Commission.

    The BPOA has urged the city to limit the number of unrelated “renters” who could live in a house during the course of a year as well as limiting the number of times a house could be rented from six times per year to twice annually.

     “We believe this will reduce the damage done to stable single-family neighborhoods due to transient use,” the flier says.

      The BPOA also suggested that in medium density residential districts, (RM), where there are “effectively, no limits on turnovers,” that a maximum number of six rentals per year be enforced.

     The organization notes that rehab house operators have been able to “trump” local zoning ordinances by applying for “reasonable accommodations” waivers as provided under the federal American with Disabilities Act. Courts have ruled that addicts are disabled, and thus protected under ADA.

    BPOA leaders urged residents in the mailer to ask their federal and state lawmakers to find a solution.

     “We believe a fair and compassionate balance can be achieved between the mandates of the ADA and the interests of families in protecting their homes and neighborhoods.”

    But Rothermel told The Coastal Star last month that courts have consistently sided with the rights of recovering addicts when cities attempted to restrict where they may live.

     “They suffered in court and spent a tremendous amount of money fighting it,” he said.

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