Green Park may update city code to address residential medical facilities

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Green Park City Hall.

By Erin Achenbach, News Editor

Green Park is considering adding language to its city code to address residential medical facilities and group homes in the city, spurred by a lawsuit on a similar issue against St. Louis County and a push from Ward 1 Alderman Michael Broughton.

The Planning and Zoning Commission unanimously voted last month to recommend the Board of Aldermen amend the code to address residential medical facilities, since the current language is not clear.

“There has been some, in the South County area, some larger establishments that have certainly in unincorporated St. Louis County, kind of tried to use the group home model for other uses that aren’t necessarily agreed upon in order to set up facilities in residential areas that are more medical,” said City Attorney Paul Rost at the June 1 planning meeting. “The concern was … it would be good to make it clear in our code that if you’re going to develop something basically medical residential living … it needs to be developed as a larger development.”

Last fall, the owner of a residential eating-disorder group home proposed in Oakville filed a lawsuit against St. Louis County over zoning, after the county changed its decision to allow the facility to open without going through the rezoning process.

Monte Nido is a provider of eating disorder services and had submitted a proposal to the county for an eight-person group home for people with eating disorders in a single-family home on Christopher Drive. The county originally approved the application but then reversed course after nearby residents complained about a business operating out of a former single-family residence.

Under the language proposed by Rost, RMFs would be defined as a “business that provides in-home healthcare and personal care services to four” or fewer unrelated people in a single-family home. In the current code, group homes are also called “group homes for the disabled”; in the updated language, they would just be regarded as group homes.

“So it (RMFs) can be done but it would have to be done as kind of a larger overall development and not as a piecemeal pick up a lot here and then another one there … to try and redevelop the parts of the residential neighborhoods as kind of these RMFs,” Rost said. “And then while we were at it, we were going to clean up the definition of group homes. It was kind of an older group home definition.”

The new language also adds a section for group home standards, preventing them from being located within 500 feet of another group home to assure group homes are not “unduly concentrated in neighborhoods so as to afford mentally or physically disabled persons every opportunity to be integrated in the community.”

An additional subsection outlines how and where RMFs are allowed: Only as a planned use development on a lot over 2.5 acres that must be reviewed by both the planning commission and aldermen. The new language does not and cannot prohibit RMFs from applying for zoning, but outlines where and how they could operate.

Broughton brought his concerns about medical residential facilities operating in the city to the board last fall. He estimated that medical residential facilities could be costing the city between $30,000 to $50,000 a year and requested that they be investigated.

Rost said that he did not find any operating in the city, but that there were two group homes operating that were in compliance with the city’s code.

“I just want to be clear, they (the two group homes) are not residential medical facilities. They’re group homes,” said Rost. “The concern was we had RMFs. We don’t. We just have two group homes. There’s a big difference. The group homes are not medical facilities. … Their primary goal is not medical.”

The Board of Aldermen is slated to discuss the amended language for RMFs and group homes sometime at an upcoming meeting.