A Minneapolis City Council committee has rejected an appeal from residents of the Whittier neighborhood who want to stop a historic mansion from being turned into housing for recovering addicts.
The Zoning and Planning Committee voted unanimously Thursday to uphold an earlier decision from the city’s zoning panel. That group had determined the NuWay House organization could move into the house at W. 22nd Street and Blaisdell Avenue S., even though it would violate the city’s rules prohibiting treatment and recovery facilities from operating within a quarter-mile of each other.
NuWay and other organizations run several such facilities in the Whittier neighborhood, but both the zoning panel and the committee said keeping out the new facility would violate federal housing protections for people with disabilities — including people dealing with chemical dependency.
Council members listened to comments from 10 Whittier neighbors and property owners, including several who said they worry NuWay is attempting to take over a significant piece of the neighborhood with a cluster of treatment and recovery facilities.
Ted Irgens, the neighbor who appealed the zoning board’s decision to the council, said NuWay’s plans to house up to 47 people in the mansion amounted to an “institution,” rather than a home. He noted that NuWay has purchased or attempted to purchase more than a half-dozen properties in a two-block area, nearly creating “the corner of Nicollet and NuWay.”
“This is not an issue of neighbors not wanting these people present,” he said. “This is an issue of the neighbors saying: ‘You cannot continue to cluster [treatment and recovery facilities] and create this institutional environment in this neighborhood.’ ”
Other neighbors said they were worried about potential drug use spilling over into the rest of the neighborhood and families feeling less safe.
David Vennes, NuWay’s executive director, said it was unfortunate Irgens and the other speakers “want to pick and choose your neighbors.”
He noted that the neighborhood has a long history as a center for treatment programs and was the home of the state’s first Alcoholics Anonymous group. NuWay, he said, is deliberately trying to cluster its facilities together — to better serve its clients.
“Individuals suffering from alcohol and drug addiction do poorly when isolated from their recovering peers,” he said.
The committee’s recommendation will go to the full council for a vote next week.