Zoning Board of Adjustments hearing 02.04.14

February 04, 2014


The Zoning Board of Adjustments meeting of the Village of Forest Hills was held in the meeting room at the Jackson County Recreation Center at 5:00pm on February 04, 2014.

 The following members of the Zoning Board of Adjustments were present:

Ron Mau, Board Chair

Kolleen Begley

Clark Corwin

Carl Hooper

Dan Perlmutter

Steve Brown

Rick Cardona


Others present:

David Moore, Village Attorney

Ken Dickert, Zoning Administrator

Stephanie Gibson, Finance Officer/Clerk

Quinton Ellison, the Sylva Herald

Gerald Green, Director of the Jackson County Planning Department

Mrs. Mia Boyce, Kingdom Care Ministries, family, and supporters

Max Holland, Village property owner

Elizabeth St. John, Village property owner


1.  Introduction of case by Board Chair: 5:00pm by RonMau, Zoning Board of Adjustments Board Chair.  RonMau announced that the public hearing was scheduled to address a zoning variance request by Kingdom Care Ministries, they applied for a variance to allow the establishment of a Family Care Home/Group Home at 441 Pin Cushion Lane. The request for a variance was not accepted as a Family Care Home/Group Home is not identified as a permitted use per the Village of Forest Hills Zoning ordinances.

RonMau administered the Oath to speakers Gerald Green, Ken Dickert, Mia Boyce, Max Holland, and Elizabeth St. John. 

18 residents. Ron Mau said that any facility meeting definitions of state statutes and/or federal laws would be permissible; noting that more than 6 residents would not be covered by the laws referenced. Six or more residents are defined as a Group Home. Ron Mau stated that the Federal Fair Housing Act states that reasonable accommodations must be made to treat these homes that meet specified criteria as a single family home or make provisions through a variance. 

2.  Staff Presentation: Mr. Gerald Green provided the Staff Presentation, stating that the question before the Zoning Board of Adjustments is whether or not the Zoning Administrator acted correctly by denying the variance request.

Gerald Green explained that the avenue for determining whether the use is appropriate is an Administrative Process, which goes through the Planning Board who then makes a recommendation to the Village of Forest Hills Council to vote on.

Mr. Green noted that in the application, there was no clear indication given as to the number of residents. 

Mrs. Boyce did state that the home could provide for 15 persons age 18 and older and 6 children. She stated that they would need 15-18 residents to run the home successfully. 

Mr. Green stated that according to Village ordinance section 603.C.2, this would be a non-conforming use and therefore the Zoning Administrator acted correctly in denying the request. 

Mr. Green stated that according to North Carolina General Statutes, a Family Care home is defined as a home of support and supervisory personnel that provides room and board, personal care, and habilitation services in a family environment for not more than 6 residents with disabilities. Statutes state that a Family Care home shall be deemed a residential use of property for zoning purposes and shall be a permissible use in all residential districts of all political subdivisions, therefore a Family Care Home meeting the definition as set forth in the State statutes would be permitted in any residential district within the Village of Forest Hills, the key being meeting the definition.

Mr. Green said that typically a person with alcohol and/or drug addiction or recovering from those addictions are not considered disabled persons under the definition as set forth in the State statutes unless they have emotional and mental challenges in addition to drug or alcohol addictions.

Additionally, Mrs. Boyce stated that the home would serve persons in a home crisis situation and those persons do not meet the definition of persons with disabilities as set forth in the State statutes. 

If a facility provides services for more than 6 persons, they are classified as a Group Home and can be regulated through zoning ordinances. 

3.  Appellant presentation: Mrs. Mia Boyce shared that in August 2009 she went through a drug rehabilitation for an addiction to crack and cocaine that she credits with saving her life. She said that after her rehabilitation she managed a Family Care Home and in November 2010, she began a ministry serving women who have gone through similar situations. Mrs. Boyce said that her daughter-in-law offered her family home at 441 Pin Cushion Lane to them to provide a home and care facility. Mrs. Boyce said that on December 11, 2013 she spoke with Mayor Begley who said that some of the Village ordinances may be outdated. Mrs. Boyce said that she has no intention of changing the home, it will not be a Family Care facility or any kind of licensed facility, and they will not provide any special care. The home would remain a single family residence. Mrs. Boyce said that she was upset and humiliated by the letter she received from the Village of Forest Hills. She noted that she feels public notices and hearings stigmatize those who are in recovery. She stated that often recovery homes do not notify an area of intentions to offer recovery. Mrs. Boyce said that most, around 80%, of recovery homes have 8 or more residents in order to be therapeutically and financially viable. She said that the amendments to the Fair Housing Laws make it unlawful to discriminate against Recovery homes. She noted that many Oxford houses are located in residential areas and those alcoholics and drug addicts are a protected class.

4.  Questions and follow-up by staff:  Mr. Gerald Green, Director of the Jackson County Planning Department; Mr. David Moore, Attorney for the Village of Forest Hills.

Mr. Green reiterated that the only question to be answered by the Zoning Board of Adjustments is whether or not the Zoning Administrator had acted correctly in denying the variance request by Kingdom Care Ministries. He noted that if the denial was upheld, an appeal from here would go to the Superior Court.

5.  Public Comment: (Mrs. Elizabeth St. John and Mr. Max Holland, adjoining land owners signed up for Public comment).

Mrs. St. John expressed concerns over road maintenance with the additional traffic on the road, noting that she has $10,000 of her own money in the road. Also, Mrs. St. John expressed concern over being in a student environment. She commended Mrs. Boyce on her involvement with recovery but is concerned about the impact more residents will have on the road and area she resides in.

Mr. Max Holland said that he has been a property owner at 227 Pin Cushion Lane for over 27 years and he was disappointed at the previous owner’s lack of input into the road and she? is not sure if there is a road right-of-way. He has 7 rental units and Mrs. St. John has 5 units that she manages and they have used their own funds on the road. He noted that he was unaware of the public hearing in advance and was not prepared to speak but he wants some assurances that there will be substantial assistance with the road.

6.  Questions and follow-up by Appellant:  

7.  Questions and discussion by Board: Kolleen Begley verified with the village attorney that neither the Zoning Administrator or the Zoning Board of Adjustments could change an ordinance.

Dan Perlmutter asked what the Zoning Board of Adjustments can adjust. Gerald Green responded with some examples.

Kolleen Begley stated that a request for rezoning can be submitted to the Planning Board.

Clark Corwin suggested that Kingdom Care Ministries take their request before the Planning Board at some point.

Ron Mau asked Attorney Moore to explain ADA and FHA statutes of family housing. Attorney Moore explained that the laws do not provide exceptions. He gave an example of a landlord housing 15 College students and that he could say they had some sort of disability.

Ron Mau asked Mrs. Boyce if she would email her comments to him, she agreed.

8.  Board decision making: Note: Board can ask questions of staff/appellant but neither staff nor appellant can question Board.

Clark Corwin made a motion, seconded by Carl Hooper, that the board upholds the Zoning Administrator’s decision.

9.  Adjournment: Meeting was adjourned at 6:10pm