By Katelyn Sattler
The Greater Hilltop Area Commission approved a zoning variance for a sober living facility. The action was approved at the commission’s July meeting.
Patricia Riley, an attorney representing CRN Housing, presented the requested housing variance at 478 Ryan Ave. to commissioners. The property is currently zoned commercial but CRN would like it to be zoned for apartment residential use to be used as a sober living style shared living facility.
The building consists of nine apartments. CRN Housing would like to place one to four individuals or family members in each apartment. The two-bedroom, one bath apartments would be leased as residential apartments contingent on the sobriety of the individuals.
Tenants are not provided on-site care, skilled nursing, meals, or single night stays. There are no live-in staff members. Tenants are not court-ordered to reside in the sober living facility.
CRN Housing has been operating as a shared living facility at 478 Ryan Ave. for the past two years, unaware it needed to file a variance to be used as a sober living facility.
“The housing is provided as a benefit of being engaged in the program,” said Riley. “All of the individuals who live in this building need to be sober from any known substances, unless they are prescribed a medication to help them with their mental health or what have you. In speaking with my client, some of the concerns that were brought up to us were the parking spaces. There are nine units and 17 parking spaces available.”
She added that, CRN Housing is willing to reduce the number of units used for housing down to seven, with one of the other units as an office, to appease the commission.
“The goal is to help the individuals that will be residing in this building to become law-abiding tax-paying healthy family members,” said Riley.
Keith Vukasinovich, chief executive officer of CRN Healthcare said, “There’s an actual curriculum for drug treatment. The vast majority of folks are there because they are in recovery, so it’s sober housing. Some do have co-occurring mental health disorders, typically mild, anxieties or depressions. If we should have applicants who need it, the intent is to try and keep people stable after an initial crisis, typically an overdose or hospitalization.”
Participants are drug screened two to three times a week.
Riley added, “No actual treatment is provided in this building. It is for living purposes only. All treatment is provided at the CRN Healthcare office, which is not on-site. The residents will be responsible for their own cooking, cleaning, and daily lives. The difference between traditional apartments and the sober living units would be that again, the tenancy is based on the requirement of sobriety.”
Commissioner Patrick Barnacle was the only commissioner who voted against the zoning variance.
“My no vote has nothing to do with objections to the living facility. My one objection is that I prefer the normal eviction process for the rights of the tenants. And I believe you could, in your leases, basically provide essentially the same level of services with the only stipulation that you have to go through the extra steps to get rid of it,” he said.
Vukasinovich responded, “The issue is we don’t lease to their provided housing as they participate in the clinical services. If we were to create a lease eviction situation that could potentially have us in a situation where all nine units could be filled with clients who were refusing to participate in services, and there would be literally nothing we could do about it.”
When asked by commissioner Victoria Bates-Frye what his mission is for his program, Vukasinovich said, “I am the child of two dead addicts, and I want to create the kind of programs I wish they had so they would be able to see their grandkids today. So my mission is to make sure that nobody has a childhood like mine and the people who are struggling with addiction get an opportunity to have the life I think they should, that they’re entitled to have, that I want them to have.”
The commission approved the variance 11-1. The legislation will move on the Columbus City Council.