Zoners Deny Use Variance For Women’s Recovery Home

Warsaw Board of Zoning Appeals Monday denied a request for a use variance that would allow a recovery home for women battling drug and alcohol addictions at 604 E. Fort Wayne St. 
Ron Shoemaker, board member, made a motion to deny the variance requested by Serenity House, seconded by Tammy Dalton, board member. Board members Rick Keeven and Jack Wilhite also voted against the variance. Tom Allen, board president, was absent.
The city felt the use and value of the area will be negatively effected with the additional recovery home. There will be increased traffic and parking needs which Fort Wayne Street is not designed to accommodate.
There also will be a significant increase in density that is not compatible with the neighborhood. The single family homes nearby could see a noticeable decrease in property value.
The comprehensive plan identifies the area as an urban residential neighborhood. The use has residential aspects, but also has commercial qualities that conflict with the goals of this area, according to Tim Dobrosky, assistant city planner.
Serenity House has had men’s recovery homes in Warsaw at 622 E. Fort Wayne St. since 2006, where 16 men are currently served, and at 2016 E. Market St. since 2009, where 10 men are currently served.
Smith said the idea would be to keep the men’s home at 622 E. Fort Wayne St., turn the home at 2016 E. Market St. into a women’s home and the 604 E. Fort Wayne St. property would be a men’s home.
The board heard from neighbors of East Fort Wayne and Main streets who had concerns with allowing the recovery home on East Fort Wayne Street. There were 14 East Fort Wayne and Main Street residents who attended the meeting to show their opposition to allowing the home there.
Speaking in favor were Serenity House representatives and Mary Jo Bronco, 604 E. Fort Wayne St. homeowner.
Bronco said she is trying to sell the 100-year-old home and said Serenity House has been a good neighbor with  the existing home.
John Kidd, Serenity House board member, supported locating the recovery home on East Fort Wayne Street.
Hoss Smith, Serenity House director, said there is a need for a recovery home for women in Warsaw.
“We are looking to open a house for women who suffer from the same addictions men suffer from. We do not have this available for women and that’s a shame,” Smith said.
Smith said he toured a home at the corner of High Street and Winona Avenue Monday as a potential location for a women’s recovery home. The home used to be Karin Hamilton’s reality office.
Duane Huffer, former judge and Main Street resident, said a recovery home for women battling drug and alcohol addictions is needed desperately.
“The benefit of having a facility for women in a city is that they can get to their jobs. If they’re out in the country or a town that doesn’t have as much employment that makes it difficult,” Huffer said.
Adjacent residents spoke in opposition to allowing the additional recovery home in their neighborhood.
Kolin Young, who rents out a home at 613 E. Fort Wayne St., across from 604 E. Fort Wayne St., said the home would be better located in another area.
“I ask you to not put a boarding house there. There are plenty of neighborhoods in Warsaw. Why put two in one neighborhood?” Young asked.
Bob Raver, who lives at 612 E. Fort Wayne St., next to 604 E. Fort Wayne St., presented a petition with 35 signatures of East Fort Wayne and Main Street residents in opposition to allowing a recovery home for women on East Fort Wayne Street.
Jennifer King, who owns homes at 621  and 607 E. Main Streets, said she had concerns with flooding that the parking lot that was proposed to be built behind the recovery home would bring to her properties.
Mark Meerzo, 619 E. Main St., said he has lived in his home for 29 years and said it would have a negative impact by creating additional traffic by putting a second home in the neighborhood.
He suggested building a home another place, rather than taking up valuable single-family residences.
Zoning board members spoke about their concerns regarding putting a second recovery home in the neighborhood.
Keeven said he is a member of the Kosciusko County Jail Ministry and has seen the magnificent job Serenity House has done.
“There is a crying need for this kind of housing, however, it strikes me the neighborhood has spoken and has strong feelings on this,” Keeven said.
Keeven said he will do everything he can to help Serenity House find another site.
Shoemaker agreed the location is not appropriate.
“I agree it’s a very needed program for our community, but I also believe the putting a second home in the neighborhood will create a density problem,” Shoemaker said.
Dalton said she has reservations about adding additional people to a small space.
Wilhite said Serenity House provides a needed service.
“That’s not what is up for us to decide whether we pick winners or losers. It’s up to us to decide whether it fits in the city’s criteria,” Wilhite said.

(Story By The Times Union)