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Butte debates residential zoning law concerning recovery homes

Posted at 11:17 AM, Aug 14, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-14 13:17:10-04

BUTTE - Butte’s Council of Commissioners are still debating if the ordinance regulating residential facilities such as halfway houses and addiction recovery homes need to be changed to include a special conditional use permit.

“There would be a public hearing where neighbors would come speak for it or against it,” said Butte Planning Director Lori Casey.

Currently housing facilities for up to eight people in residential areas only need an approved license from the state. Butte is considering adding conditions to its current law.

“You can put conditions that may help them fit in the neighborhood better such as looking at the parking, or lighting or signage, but they cannot be denied,” said Casey.

Kalispell is the only other major city in Montana that has a conditional use requirement for residential facilities. Some Butte officials worry it could violate Fair Housing Act.

“You can not discriminate against the type of folks that need to use these facilities. Alcohol and drug treatment is a disability and they fall under the Fair Housing Act,” said Casey.

This issue came to a head last year when a recovery home for addicts planned to open up in a home in the westside neighborhood. Many residents said they felt blindsided by this and believe there should be more transparency.

“I think it’s a combination of making sure you’re not discriminating versus the transparency and letting the neighbors have an opportunity for a public hearing,” said Casey.

On Wednesday, Butte’s Council of Commissioners could not come to a decision on changing this ordinance in a 6 to 6 tie, so the matter is likely to be reconsidered at its meeting next Wednesday.