NORTH OGDEN -- The city is getting in line with the feds on rules and regulations for group homes.
The change is coming after a business application for a group home in a residential neighborhood was filed recently and the city attorney realized the city could be sued if it didn't get proper laws on the books.
Crossroads Academy petitioned for a business license for a group home in the city as a residential facility for the disabled.
Crossroads Academy already has a facility in the city, said City Manager Ed Dickie.
Councilman Wade Bigler asked several questions about the group home before the business license was approved, so City Attorney Dave Carlson wanted to update the city ordinance so it matched federal law.
The state doesn't require the same laws, so it is easy to not be in line, Carlson said.
Some of the ordinance changes being made pertain to:
* how far the city can go to remove what it deems to be a dangerous person living in the home;
* not requiring the home to obtain a state license before occupying the home, which could create a Catch-22 situation;
* group homes are listed clearly as a permitted use;
* 24-hour surveillance is required only for underage residents;
* and the community development director can make accommodations where necessary.
Basically, Carlson explained, group homes need to be treated like residential units.
"We have no issue with them, but they could have had an issue with us," Dickie said regarding the proposed changes to the ordinance and zoning.
The council unanimously passed the changes.
"In no place have local governments gotten into more trouble than with the Americans With Disabilities Act and Fair Housing," Carlson said. "It's an area where cities can get into a lot of trouble."
He noted that group homes sometimes are not popular with neighbors and those neighbors try to throw up obstacles so the homes won't be in their neighborhood.
Carlson said the law is set up to protect the homes because of that.
"We cannot treat the homes any differently than any family," he said.
Ogden City Planner John Mayer is happy to see North Ogden coming into compliance.
Ogden has been in complete compliance since 2000 and made some revisions to its ordinances at that time, as well, to regulate the numerous group homes along 25th Street.
"It was changing the character of the neighborhood," Mayer said.
The changes didn't zone out group homes or halfway houses, but the facilities will be more spread out. He is glad to see that some other cities are drawing some of the homes now.
"Now some of the agencies know what the playing field looks like," he said about cities like North Ogden coming into compliance.
Roy City Manager Chris Davis said as far he knows, his city is in compliance.
"We have never had any lawsuits," he said.
Every time the general plan is updated, staff makes sure the city is in compliance, Davis said.
Pleasant View City Planner Bruce Talbot said that city hasn't had any applications for group homes or halfway houses so far.
Because of that, the city hasn't added any provisions for them in its ordinances or zoning. He said the city isn't opposed to doing so when it needs to, but doesn't intend to until necessary.
Carlson encouraged the North Ogden City Council to not assume that group homes will be bad for neighborhoods and not think they are a "bad apple" for the area.
He noted that such homes have to follow many laws, both state and federal, to be in compliance.