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Columbia's rules regarding group homes reviewed

The columbia City Council unanimously passed a measure creating the EEZ Board.
The columbia City Council unanimously passed a measure creating the EEZ Board.

Columbia's Community Development Department is reviewing rules regarding group homes. This review came after an agency serving mentally and physically handicapped people proposed to open a new group home next to an existing one.

The city ordinance requires groups homes for handicapped people stand more than 1,000 feet away from each other in neighborhoods with single-family residences.

The agency Great Circle wants to buy a new group home next door to an existing home it already operates in order to separate the males and females they assist. Great Circle wants to open this new home on Westwinds Drive, which is a street with single-family residences.

Later this month there will be an open house to give residents the opportunity of discussing whether they support the proposal of Great Circle.

"I'm looking forward to attending that [open house] and listen to what everybody has to say before making up my mind about whether I would support it or not," said Ward 4 City Council Member Ian Thomas, who represents the neighborhood where Great Circle wants to open the new group house.

"Staff [of the Community Development Department] is currently working with Great Circle trying to identify some options and looking at the possibilities associated with them, we may have some type of resolution with our city's legal department as about how to proceed forward," said Columbia's Development Department Services Manager Pat Zenner regarding the review of the city ordinance.

The current ordinance was enacted in 1991, when two group homes for recovering alcohol and drug addicts opened up side by side on Willowbrook Road, in the northern part of Columbia.