Hous­ing com­plaint filed against city dis­missed

The Saline Courier Weekend - - FRONT PAGE - By Sarah Perry

The Arkansas Fair Hous­ing Com­mis­sion has dis­missed a 2016 com­plaint made against the city of Ben­ton.

Robert Can­non filed a com­plaint with the U.S. Depart­ment of Hous­ing and Ur­ban Devel­op­ment and the Arkansas Fair Hous­ing Com­mis­sion on Dec. 17, 2015, af­ter three group homes he was op­er­at­ing through Bro­ken Chain Min­istries were shut down by city of­fi­cials.

Can­non claimed that city em­ploy­ees in­jured him by mak­ing hous­ing un­avail­able through zon­ing and in­ter­fer­ence in con­nec­tion with prop­er­ties lo­cated at 1617 Deer­field Rd., 1005 Brookview Dr. and 1912 Al­coa Rd., ac­cord­ing to the com­mis­sion.

The group homes were shut down by city of­fi­cials af­ter they be­gan re­ceiv­ing com­plaints from in­di­vid­u­als liv­ing near the prop­erty on Deer­field Road.

Af­ter in­ves­ti­gat­ing the homes, city of­fi­cials learned the spa­ces were be­ing rent­ing on a weekly ba­sis. At the time, there were six to seven peo­ple liv­ing at the Deer­field home which is ap­prox­i­mately 3,400 square feet with two bath­rooms.

”The de­tec­tive was also told there were plans to add ad­di­tional bunk beds to al­low ap­prox­i­mately 17 peo­ple to live at that location,” ac­cord­ing to the city’s re­sponse to the com­plaint.

City of­fi­cials said the homes were be­ing op­er­ated with­out a city priv­i­lege li­cense and un­der the city’s zon­ing reg­u­la­tion, group homes are not al­lowed in sin­gle­fam­ily res­i­dences, ac­cord­ing to the city’s re­sponse to the com­plaint.

The Brookview home had been in use for four years while the home on Al­coa Road had been in op­er­a­tion for only a few months. The home on Deer­field Road had been opened only a month be­fore the clo­sure.

In the com­plaint, Can­non stated that the group homes were cre­ated to help as­sist men with dis­abil­i­ties, but later dur­ing in­ter­views with the com­mis­sion Can­non was “in­con­sis­tent as to whether ‘Fresh Start’ was a pro­gram that housed parolees or a pro­gram for dis­abled in­di­vid­u­als,” ac­cord­ing to the com­mis­sion.

To re­spond to the com­plaint, the com­mis­sioner’s in­ves­ti­ga­tor re­viewed a video of a spe­cial Ben­ton City Coun­cil meet­ing. Dur­ing this meet­ing, Can­non is quoted as say­ing “I work to help peo­ple that are in­car­cer­ated” and “I work with a lot of prison, jail. This is what I do,” ac­cord­ing to the in­ves­ti­ga­tor.

Can­non also did not pro­vide doc­u­men­ta­tion to the coun­cil “that the ten­ants at the sub­ject prop­er­ties were per­sons with dis­abil­i­ties as de­fined un­der the Fair Hous­ing

Act,” ac­cord­ing to the com­mis­sion.

Based on this in­ves­ti­ga­tion, the com­mis­sion dis­missed the com­plaint.

”Based on the ev­i­dence set forth above, there is in­suf­fi­cient ev­i­dence to prove dis­crim­i­na­tion based on dis­abil­ity. Ac­cord­ingly, no rea­son­able cause ex­ists to be­lieve that (the city of Ben­ton) dis­crim­i­nated against (Can­non) or that the act was vi­o­lated. The com­plaint is hereby dis­missed,” ac­cord­ing to the com­mis­sion.

City At­tor­ney Brent Hous­ton said he is happy with the com­mis­sion’s de­ci­sion.

”The city is pleased the Fair Hous­ing Com­mis­sion has de­ter­mined its ac­tions per­tain­ing to the Bro­ken Chain Min­istries group homes were law­ful un­der the Fair Hous­ing Act. When a com­plaint such as this is made, the city ad­min­is­tra­tion will re­view its ac­tions along with the poli­cies and pro­ce­dures in place to de­ter­mine if they were law­ful. When the com­plaint oc­curred in 2016 the city ad­min­is­tra­tion be­lieved it was on firm ground with re­spect to its ac­tions and po­si­tion con­cern­ing the three fa­cil­i­ties. This belief was af­firmed by the com­mis­sion to­day,” Hous­ton said.

Along with the city, Can­non also named

Hous­ton, Ben­ton Gen­eral Man­ager David Von­dran, who was serv­ing as city en­gi­neer at the time of the com­plaint, as well as for­mer po­lice Chief Kirk Lane and for­mer Mayor David Mat­tingly.

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