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Twin Lakes residents angry over group home plan

Twin Lakes residents are urging city councilmembers to rethink a proposal to introduce a group home into their neighborhood.

Residents packed the council chambers on Jan. 2 to testify against the proposal, but assistant city manager Derek Mattheson said city staff are trying to determine what authority they have to stop it.

That’s because people with alcohol and drug dependencies are considered disabled in some circumstances, and the Fair Housing Act stipulates that people with disabilities cannot be discriminated against in housing options.

Mattheson said city officials want to be sure they’re not exposing themselves to a lawsuit if they forbid the house from locating in the city, assuming it meets other stipulations of development.

“That’s the crux of the issue,” Mattheson said.

Mattheson said the application and permit paperwork is still working its way through staff offices.

Twin Lakes neighbors wonder why city staff approved a request to allow the eight men to live in a single-occupancy family residence.

Mattheson said there was a misconception about the city’s actions. “The city did not issue a variance to allow eight people,” he said. “We issued an administrative interpretation to the definition of a family.”

Other residents are angry the council dedicated $20,000 to a project they suspect will increase problems in their neighborhood, but Mattheson said the city gave the money in September 2000 for a group home somewhere in South King County. “The council didn’t necessarily know where,” he said.

The company who would run the facility, Oxford House, chose the Twin Lakes neighborhood and applied for a building permit to alter the house in the fall of 2001. That’s when city staff agreed to interpret the city code to allow eight people to live in the residence. Standard building permit applications don’t normally have a public hearing.

Judy Brooks, a Twin Lakes resident, said the proposed site is too close to Twin Lakes Elementary and the Lakota bus stop.

Residents presented the council with their concerns, but Brooks said they didn’t get any answers. “They just said, ‘Our hands are tied,’” she said.

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