By Bryan Boggiano
Residents and neighborhoods impacted by sober homes could soon be in for some relief.
The Coral Springs planning and zoning board will discuss a proposed change to the land development code that regulates recovery residences and congregate living facilities, which includes sober homes.
According to city documents, the demand for sober homes and recovery residencies has increased, leading to their rapid expansion. They noted that when properly operated and located, these facilities produce a family-like environment that promotes healing and sobriety.
Broward County has 485 state-certified sober homes and 2,159 beds. Almost 75 percent of all state facilities are located in Broward or Palm Beach counties; some are clustered tightly.
According to the city’s consultant Daniel Lauber, clustering the facilities prevents normalization, community integration, and the creation of a family-like environment for residents in the homes. Unethical operations, illegal drugs, alcohol abuse, and exploitation are all possible without regulations.
Sober homes are clustered within the city in Running Brook Hills and surrounding neighborhoods. Two near Coral Hill Drive are only 635 feet apart, while two blocks to the east, another two are 556 feet apart.
Lauber notes clustering may be developing north of Sample Road between Coral Ridge Drive and Northwest 110th Avenue, as well as in The Dells and The Crossings.
The city’s land development code currently addresses residential care facilities such as group homes, foster care facilities, life care facilities, and group homes. It does not address sober homes and recovery residences.
The city notes it has received requests for sober homes in residential neighborhoods. Under the Fair Housing Act, city officials must provide reasonable accommodations in zoning codes to allow these facilities.
Now, the city hopes to make changes that benefit both neighborhoods and the occupants of sober homes.
Under the proposed changes to the land development code, the city’s application process, specifically for community residences, recovery communities, and congregate living facilities, would change. The code would also change the definition of a “family” from a maximum of three to four unrelated individuals.
If a family community residence, transitional community residence, or recovery has four or fewer unrelated people, there will be no additional regulations or zoning changes.
If the residence exceeds four people, the land development code will mandate the city to make reasonable accommodations for these homes using the least drastic means to achieve a legitimate government interest. This would require both an application and a hearing.
Under the new code, the city would update the definitions for nursing homes and residential units to distinguish them from the newly defined uses.
Community residences occupied by more than four unrelated people would also have to be separated by 750 feet or nine lots, whichever is greater. Facilities would need a state license or certification, a provisional certification from the Florida Association of Recovery Residences, a conditional Oxford House Charter, and a maximum number of ten occupants.
The city would require conditional use approval for a proposed community residence that is not a state-licensed community home with seven to 14 residents or more than ten occupants.
Recovery communities in single-family communities would not be permitted unless they are already in operation and if they obtain and maintain state certification within nine months of the code’s adoption.
Multifamily and institutionally zoned areas must be located 1300 feet or 12 lots apart.
The planning and zoning board will discuss the proposed code at their July 10 meeting, starting at 6:30 p.m., and vote on whether to send a favorable recommendation to the city commission. The commission will then discuss and vote on the code at their Aug. 2 meeting, starting at 6:30 p.m.