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City of Lincoln
Mayor's Office

2004 Media Releases

May 21, 2004
For More Information Contact:
Mark Bowen and Ann Harrell, Mayor’s Office, 441-7511

Mayor Seng Names Task Force to Review Group Home Policy
Task force to study issues of location, neighborhood impact and local control

Mayor Coleen J. Seng today announced formation of a citizen task force to examine the City’s laws and regulations governing group homes and congregate housing.

The City of Lincoln currently regulates the location of group homes and congregate housing and care facilities through the zoning ordinances. The task force will be asked to consider and recommend any changes that would improve the community’s ability to provide appropriate housing opportunities for people with special needs, yet do so in a way that is compatible with Lincoln’s existing neighborhoods.

"It is important to consider the impact that congregate housing has on a neighborhood and discuss who can safely be housed and what settings are appropriate for the variety of different services being provided by group homes or other supervised congregate housing," Mayor Seng said.

The Lincoln-Lancaster County Comprehensive Plan states that congregate facilities should be designed and located to enhance the surrounding neighborhood. Reasonable spacing, design and operational requirements should be created for all congregate facilities to preserve the neighborhood character while providing for those with special needs.

"The recent incident in which a group home resident was charged with stabbing a child has justifiably focused the community concern on how congregate living is incorporated into a neighborhood," Mayor Seng said. "We are glad the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services is making a requirement for more security in some programs, but we also need to discuss what patients are housed in a community. My hope is that the task force can focus a thoughtful discussion of the issues and how they should be addressed in local ordinances.

"The task force will be charged with balancing the objective of providing effective and efficient services to the City’s special populations while protecting the integrity and stability of our residential neighborhoods," Seng said. The task force is expected to complete its mission and report to the Mayor within four months of its initial meeting.

Seng noted that the task force will begin by reviewing the existing City ordinances. Some group home operators have indicated they intend to seek waivers from parts of the existing City zoning ordinances. The City of Lincoln currently does not have a procedure to review applications seeking a variance from the City ordinance.

Seng said the Group Home and Congregate Housing Task Force will be chaired by Jon Carlson, a member of the Lincoln-Lancaster County Planning Commission. The City Council will be invited to have a representative on the task force. Other members will be:

  • Roger Massey, former area director for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and former Lincoln-Lancaster County Planning Commissioner
  • Jim Blue, Executive Director, Cedars Youth Services
  • Larry Potratz, Executive Director, Lincoln Housing Authority
  • Dean Settle, Executive Director, Lancaster County Community Mental Health Center
  • Larry Williams, Director, Lincoln Commission on Human Rights
  • Kit Boesch, Administrator, Lincoln-Lancaster County Human Services Department
  • Tom Casady, Lincoln Police Chief
  • Chuck Zimmerman, Plan Review Manager, City Building and Safety Department
  • Rick Peo, Chief Assistant City Attorney

Neighborhood representatives and persons involved in operating and/or regulating group homes and congregate housing will participate as resource members to the task force.

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