KANSAS CITY, Mo. — It’s a sigh of relief for several neighbors in one Hickman Mills neighborhood.
Kansas City’s zoning committee said a sober living program operating inside a home was violating city codes.
“They could have went the other way, but by the grace of God, they came our way,” resident Lee Nelson said.
“I’m just happy. It made my day,” resident Bobbie Proctor said.
The city cited New Beginnings Sanctuary months ago, but the owner’s attorney appealed the ruling.
Ultimately on Tuesday, Kansas City’s Board of Zoning Adjustments said the sober living program was in violation of city zoning rules. New Beginnings needed four votes from the board but only got three.
New Beginnings’ attorney cited the Fair Housing Act, saying residents are recovering from drug and alcohol addiction with the disability of substance use disorder. The program argued it isn’t operating as a halfway house.
“No city likes to hear that, but I didn’t make it up,” attorney Sarah Jane Hunt said. “It’s a supremacy clause. The federal law trumps the state law in this case, and I provided many cases that show that even changing.”
But Hickman Mills School District said it considers the program a halfway house despite New Beginnings claims.
“By making that accommodation, you would be making that accommodation for anyone who makes a request for the accommodation,” Hickman Mills School District attorney Carla Fields Johnson said. “I just don’t see how the city won’t be able to do that.”
Moving forward, New Beginnings Sanctuary will have to pay its citation, receive approval to rezone the property, then obtain a special use permit to operate legally.
“It feels like we are always forgotten about. We are always having to advocate for ourselves, and I think it shows that people are tired,” resident Angela Clardy-Forder said.