City determines A Fresh Start facilities are legal: Aldermen Moreno and Waguespack differ


Alderman Moreno

Two wards are taking two different approaches to the recent City Law Department's determination that A Fresh Start (AFS) - Sober Living Environment residential facilities are legal as is. They are located in Aldermen Proco "Joe" Moreno's 1st Ward, Scott Waguespack's 32nd Ward and Deborah Mell's 33rd Ward. 


Raymond Valadez

"The lead [City] attorney informed me that after much research and time spent trying to address the situation, the Law Dept. has determined that under the City Code, which must abide by the federal Fair Housing Act, A Fresh Start has the legal right to occupy the buildings, and they do not require a special use through the Zoning Board of Appeals," explained Raymond Valadez, Chief of Staff for Moreno, in a communication with the Chicago Grand Neighbors Association (CGNA).


Scott Waguespack

In the Zoning Ordinance, household is defined:  

17-17-0102-B Household Living Category. Residential occupancy of a dwelling unit by a household with tenancy arranged on a monthly or longer basis. 

17-17-0270 Household. One or more persons related by blood, marriage, legal adoption or guardianship, plus not more than 3 additional persons, all of whom live together as a single housekeeping unit; or one or more handicapped persons, as defined in the Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988, plus not more than 3 additional persons, all of whom live together as a single housekeeping unit. 


Paul Sajovec

"Basically, since recovering alcoholics or addicts are considered disabled, or handicapped, they are considered a 'household' according to the City code and the federal Fair Housing Act," Valadez went on to explain. "As such, they do not require any special zoning permissions, just like any other family would not require a zoning permission to reside in their homes. 

"So, the City does not have any legal mechanism to prevent the A Fresh Start housing offering from being established."

According to Paul Sajovec, Chief of Staff for Waguespack, "The Law Department is concerned that they will be sued and put through a long costly trial. There have not been enough 911 calls to substantiate a nuisance. But AFS has not been denied anything so they have no grounds on which to sue. The Law Department members are not judges. They are to enforce the law. 

"Chicago is not the only city facing this problem. L.A. is trying to deal with it by defining household to exclude these types of facilities.

"We are researching the ordinance to see if we can find the intent of those in City Council who created it. There are places in the city where this type of facility is appropriate and others where it is not. They should not be banned but they should be under a special use or the ordinance should be changed." 

On Oct. 16, CGNA and Moreno held a meeting about AFS moving into 530 N. Marshfield. On Oct. 18 at the Zoning Board of Appeals meeting, AFS was scheduled to introduce multiple applications for zoning variances on their facilities. A substantial number of residents who live next to or close to their existing facilities and Sajovec were present to speak against their applications. 

As the ZBA meeting began, AFS withdrew their applications. They can not apply again until 12 months have passed.

AFS is a for-profit company that charges their residents between $150 and $250 a week to stay in one of their locations.

Next Action
A conference call is scheduled for Tues. Feb. 25 at 2:30 p.m. for all who are interested in participating. The City attorney will explain this issue and take questions. The call-in number is 218.862.1300. Use code 670105.



Like it or not it's the law.

Like it or not it's the law.

I heard AFS is planning to

I heard AFS is planning to operate a building next door to Moreno's house on Leavitt. Wonder if he's a fan of that.

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