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Court Protects State-Licensed Residential Care Home

CONTACT: Gavin J. Boyles, Assistant Attorney General, (802) 828-3186

August 21, 2013

The Environmental Division of the Superior Court has found the Town of Westminster’s requirement that a state-licensed residential care home obtain a zoning permit is discriminatory and violates state law protecting such facilities. The Office of the Attorney General, on behalf of the Vermont Department of Mental Health, intervened in the appeal by the residential home operator, Health Care & Rehabilitation Services (HCRS), of a notice of violation issued by the town for the failure to obtain a zoning permit for the home in Westminster. “When towns place discriminatory roadblocks in the way of necessary services for Vermont’s most vulnerable residents, we will protect their rights,” said Attorney General William H. Sorrell.

In October 2012, the Town of Westminster’s zoning administrator issued a notice of violation imposing daily fines, on a small, state-licensed residential care home serving Vermonters with handicaps or disabilities. The Town argued that the home was required to obtain a zoning permit, but a state anti-discrimination statute — 24 V.S.A. § 4412(1)(G) — requires that such homes “be considered by right to constitute a permitted single-family residential use of property.” The Attorney General’s Office intervened in the court action to ensure that the home would not face penalties or administrative requirements beyond those required of other single-family uses.

In an August 18, 2013 decision, the Environmental Division agreed with the Attorney General and HCRS that the Town’s zoning-permit requirement violated state law. The Court ordered the Town to withdraw the notice of violation and to amend its zoning ordinance to comply with the anti-discrimination statute. “The decision reaffirms the fundamental right of individuals with mental-health and other disabilities to live in fully integrated community settings,” said Paul Dupre, Commissioner of the Department of Mental Health.

  Website consulting provided by The National Association of Attorneys General.