Plaintiffs in the suit, filed May 2 in
U.S. District Court in Springfield, are Community Services
Foundation, Inc., and Charleston Transitional Facility, Inc., both
Illinois not-for-profit corporations. Charleston Transitional
Facility develops and operates Community Integrated Living
Arrangements, or CILAs — group homes designed for up to eight people
with developmental disabilities.
The suit stems from a request by David
Krchak, an attorney for Charleston Transitional Facilities, that the
city change its zoning on a lot in Stonebridge purchased by the
Charleston firm so that firm can build a CILA there. The firm
applied for a building permit on April 4 and on April 17 received a
denial of the permit because the city’s zoning code does not permit
that use in areas zoned R-1.
The city’s zoning code says that no
group consisting of more than five unrelated people is considered a
family and can reside in an R-1 zoned area.
The complaint charges that the city has
"refused to make reasonable accommodations, which accommodations are
necessary to afford persons with handicaps an equal opportunity to
use and enjoy a dwelling," and alleges "discrimination on the basis
The plaintiffs are asking the federal
court to declare the city in violation of the Fair Housing Act and
grant a permanent injunction that will allow them to construct the
group home, for up to eight people with handicaps, on Lot 1 in the
The suit also asks that damages be
awarded for "injuries caused by the city’s discriminatory housing
practices," and that plaintiffs be awarded court costs, expenses and
reasonable attorney’s fees. No monetary amount of damages was
Lincoln City Attorney Bill Bates
confirmed Monday evening that the lawsuit had been filed, and he
said the city does not have to file a reply until July 6.
Handling the case for the city is a
Chicago firm noted for representing municipalities, Ancel, Glink,
Diamond, Bush, Dicianni and Rolek, P.C.
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Another attorney, Tom Welty of
Springfield, is also working for the city, researching the city’s
housing code to try to determine if the ordinance actually is in
violation of the Fair Housing Act, Bates said.
When Krchak came before the city
council in March of 2002, he said he believed the city’s ordinance
was illegal and that group homes must be allowed in an R-1 district.
Bates told the council later that month
he was not yet ready to say the ordinance was illegal but was still
researching it, with the help of Welty.
He told the council that he would
anticipate a federal lawsuit if the city denied the permit to build
the CILA in Stonebridge. He also quoted Krchak as saying he is "100
percent certain he can win a lawsuit against the city."
Several residents of the Stonebridge
subdivision appeared at a council meeting in March to protest
against building group homes in their neighborhood. Alderman also
reported getting phone calls and letters from residents in the area
who opposed group homes in an R-1 district.
Krchak was not available Tuesday, but
an attorney in the office of his Champaign firm, Thomas, Mamer &
Haughey, confirmed that the suit had been filed and that the city
had not yet filed a reply.
he could not comment on how much the lawsuit might cost the city,
which has been struggling to balance its budget in the face of the
current economic downturn. Attorney fees for Welty are $135 an hour,
Bates told the council recently.
The new hours will go into effect 30
days after a publication stating the terms of the ordinance change
is posted in city hall, which City Attorney Bill Bates said will be
Liquor license holders had petitioned
for the earlier Sunday hours last year when the ordinance committee
was discussing changes in the city’s liquor code. According to
license holder Sean Taylor of Logan Lanes, sports fans who come to
watch televised events want to buy liquor before 1 p.m., and
restaurants who serve brunch want to be able to serve wine.
Alderman Benny Huskins voted against
the change, and the other six aldermen present, Steve Fuhrer, Dave
Armbrust, Pat Madigan, Verl Prather, George Mitchell and Bill
Melton, voted for it. Alderman Glenn Shelton, who was not present,
objected to the earlier hours at a previous meeting.
The council also approved allowing a
business owner to remove the Bradford pear tree in front of the
former U.S. Office building at 500 Broadway, but could not give
permission for a property owner at 227 N. Logan to remove a sweet
gum tree along the roadway.
Gregory Brinner of RE/MAX Realty, who
purchased the Broadway Street building, told the council at a recent
meeting that the tree roots were threatening to crack the sidewalk
and the birds that roost in the trees make a mess on the street.
While Brinner may now remove one tree,
two other Bradford pears in front of State Bank of Lincoln will
stay, at least for now.
Michael Konkel of 227 N. Logan, who
said he plans to turn the property into a bed-and-breakfast, said
the hard, prickly sweet gum fruit is a nuisance when mowing and the
roots may get into the sewer system.
Alderman Mitchell told the council that
the neighbor to the south of Konkel doesn’t want the tree removed
and he did not believe it should be taken out. Street Superintendent
Don Osborne said any removal of trees along Logan Street must be
approved by Illinois Department of Transportation, and he did not
think IDOT would allow the city to remove the tree. He did, however,
say the city would trim it.
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The city has reached tentative contract
agreements with two of the four unions that represent city workers
but did not vote to ratify the labor agreements Monday evening. The
two units reaching agreement are the Fraternal Order of Police 208
and the Operating Engineers Local 399, which represents workers in
the street department.
Bates said the city will ratify the two
agreements when the contracts are in hand. He did not announce the
terms of the agreements.
Agreements must still be reached with
the unions representing the fire department and clerical workers.
Bates said negotiations are under way with the fire department but
the city has not yet begun negotiations with clerical workers.
Bates also told the council that the
city has the title and deed for the small building at Fifth and
Adams streets, which was given to the city by West Lincoln Township.
Cost for the title transfer was $140.
Mayor Beth Davis said the city’s
historic commission plans to move the building to the Postville
Courthouse State Historic Site, a few blocks west of its current
location. She said the building, once a West Lincoln polling place,
has historic value and may be one of the original buildings in the
former town of Postville.
The council approved going out for bids
for new wiring for streetlights on Wyatt Avenue. The original
aluminum wiring, which is 17 years old, is breaking down and needs
to be replaced with copper wire, according to Osborne.
also approved sending a resolution to approve an early retirement
incentive program to the ordinance and zoning committee, using ADA
money to install handicapped accessible ramps on Broadway Street,
and using drug and alcohol fund money to replace camera equipment on
a police squad car.