As part of a new ordinance to regulate group homes including sober homes, Boynton Beach plans to require the homes be certified by the Florida Association of Recovery Residences, also known as FARR, in order to open up in the city.
State law asks sober homes to only voluntarily certify with the nonprofit.
Boynton’s ordinance also could require a 300-foot separation between such homes instead of 1,000 feet. That distance is about the length of three or four homes, said Mike Rumpf, the city’s director of planning and zoning.
Sober home are already required by the city to have a business tax receipt and certificate of use.
The ordinance will also increase parking requirements at these homes.
Rumpf presented the ordinance to the City Commission on Tuesday night. The commissioners gave Rumpf the OK to move forward with it. The Planning and Development Board is expected to review it on May 23. The City Commissioners will vote twice on the ordinance June 20 and July 18 to make it official.
The new rules would apply to only new sober homes, but Rumpf said it is possible the city could require existing homes be certified by FARR in the future.
Some commissioners were concerned about the 300-foot separation rule, saying they don’t think it’s enough. However Rumpf said the key to this ordinance is that the homes must be certified.
“If you have a certified home, you probably should not know it’s there,” Rumpf said.
Meanwhile, Delray Beach is expected to pass a similar ordinance. The city might also require sober homes to be certified by FARR. Their ordinance will differ, however, as Delray is proposing a 660-foot separation between homes.
Boynton’s ordinance proposal comes after city officials in December approved a six-month ban on new applications for group homes. That moratorium will expire June 4. City staff requested the halt to have time to review the updated guidelines pertaining to group homes released Nov. 10 by the U.S. Departments of Justice and Housing and Urban Development, and see if changes need to be made to city regulations. Boynton was the first municipality to introduce a moratorium.
The moratorium gave some relief to those Boynton residents who have complained to city officials for the past year, at least, about the increase of sober homes opening in their single-family home neighborhoods. Residents say they bring an increase in traffic, noise, and attention from police and paramedics.
To come up with the new regulations, Rumpf completed a study that highlighted Riviera Drive, a street north of Woolbright Road off Federal Highway that at one time had – and still might have – three sober homes. Traffic volumes were counted in excess of 200 percent of the average daily volume for a single-family neighborhood. And, the neighborhood generated twice the amount of emergency calls than a neighborhood of similar size without sober homes.
Boynton officials can’t say for sure how many sober homes are operating in the city. But they know of nine that are already certified. They are: Three homes with Arch to Freedom, two homes with the Addison House, two homes with The Hartman House, and two with Seacrest Transitional Living, according to FARR’s website.