Trustees approve zoning code change needed to allow home for recovering addicts in residential area
The Saukville Village Board approved a minor wording change to the zoning code Tuesday that clears the way for Ozaukee County’s first sober living house.
The facility, to be called Healing Point House, will provide a home for four county residents attempting to overcome substance abuse issues.
It will be supervised by a live-in manager and support staff. Each resident agrees to abide by a list of 24 house rules, including absolute sobriety and allowing random testing.
The residents will all be men, required to get a job and pay rent.
The home will be operated by Starting Point, a Grafton-based agency which provides drug and alcohol abuse services.
During a public hearing held at the start of the board meeting, Starting Point Executive Director Shea Halula said the home is “a huge missing piece” in the county’s effort to help addicts return to productive lives in society.
Halula noted there are more than 200 sober houses in the state, but none in Ozaukee County.
He said it is time the county started taking care of its own.
“These aren’t violent criminals. These aren’t sex offenders. These are people who are in recovery and who want to be there,” Halula said.
Healing Point House has received financial and political support from county officials and the law enforcement community trying to deal with the spread of heroin use in the county.
In addition, the County Board has offered an interest-free loan of $150,000 for the operation of the sober house.
Sheriff Jim Johnson said that kind of support shows a realization that new approaches are needed to tackle the harm that addiction can do to a community.
“We have come to realize we can’t arrest our way out of this problem,” Johnson said.
District Attorney Adam Gerol said the sober house addresses a strong need in the community.
“These aren’t foreigners or from another county. They will be people who already live here,” Gerol said.
Although the sober house does not comply with permitted uses under the zoning code, Village Attorney Gerald Antoine said the problem could be addressed with a simple wording change.
That code tweak would allow up to five unrelated individuals “who need not be related by blood, marriage or adoption” to live in a residence with single-family zoning under the legal definition of a “family.”
“What this proposed wording does is update the antiquated definition of the word ‘family’ to something more appropriate,” Antoine said.
With little board discussion, trustees then unanimously approved the new wording which had previously been recommended by the Plan Commission
After the board vote, a beaming Village President Barb Dickmann spoke glowingly of the action.
“I am proud of this board, really, really proud of them. We are excited to be the first community to offer a sober house,” Dickmann said.
Following the meeting, she said most of the people who talked to her about the Healing Point House proposal wanted more information but didn’t oppose the concept of a safe place for recovering addicts to live.
“I do want the residents of the village to know we will be watching this project closely and will make sure they adhere to all of the rules and restrictions they have agreed to,” Dickmann said.