By Sara Hall | NB Indy
The City Council on Tuesday took the next-to-last step in a lengthy effort to limit and regulate group recovery homes in the city.
After a lengthy discussion that included an in-depth explanation, opposition from residents and even props, the council voted unanimously to conditionally approve a development agreement with Morningside Recovery.
Councilman Mike Henn made the motion with his recommendation that one item be cleared up before the agreement comes back to the council for the second reading on Sept. 28.
Henn noted there are many people passionate about this issue who have gone over the agreement carefully and found things wrong with it, or what they perceive to be wrong with it, or things they wish were in it that are not represented. That’s always the case in a negotiated understanding, he said.
“A negotiation is the product of give and take,” Henn said.
The agreement, Henn said, is a substantial improvement over having no agreement at all, the Sober Living by the Sea agreement and the first version of this agreement.
The one change Henn recommended was to clarify within the agreement whether a Lido Isle triplex is a single facility or three facilities. City Attorney David Hunt had raised the issue during his explanation of the agreement. Hunt said that the Lido Isle facility is a triplex but is considered only one facility. Several residents brought up the issue during the public comments and said it conflicted with a statement in the agreement, one resident even brought boxes to use as props to visually explain.
Other residents spoke about the enforcement, time limit, due process, locations and loopholes.
“There are significant operating conditions that the city can and will enforce,” said Hunt in response to the public comments about enforcement. “This is not a paper tiger. This is substantially different than the Sober Living by the Sea agreement.”
The agreement not only creates more compliance requirements but it also creates a system by which Morningside must certify that it has in fact complied, said Hunt, and not because the city is just going to simply accept what Morningside has said. The city also has inspection authority and rights under the agreement.
He also said that they do in fact have to give notice for inspection and Morningside has actually agreed to a shortened notice time than Sober Living by the Sea.
Hunt said that everything one resident listed as lacking in areas such as smoking and lewd conduct, activity and management are in fact things that Morningside has agreed to do.
There will be another opportunity for public comment at the City Council meeting on Sept. 28 when the agreement will come back to the council for a second reading and final vote.
Hunt also explained all the changes that had been made to the agreement since the Planning Commission reviewed it and made their own recommendations in June.
Since the Planning Commission’s meeting, Morningside has continued to disperse its facilities out of the West Newport area. Morningside is planning on moving to a triplex at 100 and 102 Via Antibes and 208 Via Lido Soud (this location was formerly used by another recovery facility). Morningside has also stated that it will close its facilities on River Avenue after the end of the month. Morningside has also agreed to report its numbers and locations to the city to confirm they are meeting the operational standards.
Another addition to the operational standards are the restrictions imposed by the Newport Beach municipal code limiting the number of parolees and probationers per residence with an additional limitation that no facility may house a client who is required to register as a sex offender or a gang member. The facility also may not house a client whose housing or treatment costs are paid for by the state in a funded proposition 36 program (the proposition allows first and second time nonviolent, drug possession offenders to receive help with substance abuse treatment).
Other regulations include: Qualified manager on site or on call at all times, secondhand smoke must not be detected off site, noise, lewd behavior and speech and profanity must be controlled, a 24-hour hotline must be maintained for inquiries or complaints, use of the beach and other common gathering/assembly areas shall show respect for other beachgoers neighbors and other several other restrictions.
The agreement also puts a cap on the number of clients and client beds, Hunt said. Both Sober Living by the Sea and Morningside have agreed to limitations that the city could not have enforced under state law or by city ordinance, he said.
“This is a limitation significantly beyond state law that they‘ve accepted,” said Hunt. “(Now) we have a bed cap that we could not otherwise enforce.”
The agreement limits Morningside to no more than 30 clients and client beds are permitted within the Peninsula zone. It also includes restrictions on the number of clients and client beds in the entire city (no more than 36) and in each house as well (no more than six at each facility). Also included in the operational standards of the agreement are dispersion standards, or the distancing between facilities.
Hunt compared the number of beds and facilities in Newport Beach in 2007 to current numbers. He estimated that the number of beds ranged between 447 and 791 in 2007 and are currently totaled at 197. Hunt brought up a map illustrating the difference between 2007 and now, noting that the number has been greatly reduced.
“There has been a significant reduction with respect to these facilities,” Hunt said.
Hunt discussed other items detailed in the agreement including quiet hours, specific city approved locations, 24-hour staffing requirements, secondhand smoke, transportation of clients, noise, deliveries, parking and other issues.
“(The operating conditions and restrictions) give us more enforcement tools than we would have had under our ordinance,“ Hunt said.
“I’ve worked very closely with the city to try to resolve this issue,” said Candace Bruce, CEO of Morningside Recovery. “And do it in a way that we can maintain relationships with our neighbors, both as residents as well as local businesses.”
Bruce said she has gone through the agreement and made compromises that will cause the company to increase procedures and daily operations as well as increase expenses and limit their ability for growth within the city. She added that she encourages the Morningside clients and staff to use and support local businesses.
“I’ve spent a lot of time on staff training to improve our responses to neighbor complaints or to look for proactive ways to improve the way we function within the city,” she said.
“They have agreed to the best practices as the city could assert them. They’ve actually made an effort to become a good neighbor,” Hunt said. “Now, will there be glitches along the way? I can guarantee you there will, because that’s what’s happened all along. But I do believe that we have in fact a good-faith attempt by Morningside to comply, we have the tools to enforce it and they’ve agreed to reasonable and good-faith practices to try and minimize the adverse impacts on their community.”