6938 Ironwood in Gary's Miller section

Gary officials skittish of approving group home in Miller

Contributed By:The 411 News

Not in our neighborhood say homeowners about home for terminally ill

Gary's city council has not shied away from disputes with the mayor and the rebukes it has brought from his supporters.

The council stood up boldly and passed a resolution in support of the Gary public school's referendum request to increase property taxes, a measure that residents had twice rejected.

But it is showing a good deal of caution, apparently not wanting to dip its toes in the waters of a zoning permit for a group home in Miller.

Before the council at Tuesday's March 16th meeting was CPO 2021-10, an ordinance seeking a special use permit from Kinishia Clark, the homeowner at 6938 Ironwood to establish a non-medical residential care home for seniors and veterans who are terminally ill.

In Clark's application to the Board of Zoning Appeals, the 3-bedroom, 2.5-bath residence will house a maximum of 3 aging adults suffering with a chronic illness. "The property is the elderly residents' final home. They will receive 24/7 compassionate and quality care, as well as live out their days loved and in a dignified way," Clark wrote.

The home was previously owned by Clark's deceased mother and has an estimated value of $227,000.00.

At a February 8 zoning public hearing, 8 people spoke favoring the operation and 4 people spoke against the zoning change. The zoning board received letters from 20 Miller residents opposing the change.

Opponents were concerned their property values would decrease and the medical home would change the character of the neighborhood.

The zoning board did not approve nor deny Clark's petition for the special use permit. Instead, it sent the ordinance to the council for a decision.

Although council president Bill Godwin chastised the zoning board for not "doing their job," the council's attorney Rinzer Williams said, "By statue, the zoning board can approve, deny, or not make a decision."

The Ironwood address is in Godwin's 1st District. Godwin said he would oppose the ordinance because of a huge outcry from his constituents. "I cannot ignore the concerns of those I represent who want to preserve the character of their neighborhood. It could open the floodgates to more operations like this."

Director of Zoning Eric Boria told council members that 12 letters were sent to occupants of residences within 100 feet of the address to get their feedback. Four letters were returned, all opposing the zoning change.

Councilman Clorius Lay wanted a council vote to approve or reject the ordinance. "Why are you sending it back to people who have already decided not to make a decision?" President Godwin replied, "If you first don't succeed, try again."

"It could go back and come back the same way," said Councilman Ron Brewer.

Instead of a council vote on the ordinance, the council considered a motion to return the ordinance to the BZA for an up or down recommendation.

Three members voted to return the ordinance; 4 voted against; and 2 abstained. The motion failed. Moments later the abstentions changed their vote to approve, ending with a 5-4 vote to return the ordinance to the BZA.

"We cannot allow this to go on, accepting this as normal," Godwin said of the Board of Zoning Appeal's non-decision.

Story Posted:03/21/2021

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