The Growing Challenge of Atlantic City Rehab Homes

Councilman Jesse Kurtz of Atlantic City endorsed the first limit on the clustering of group rehab homes in any New Jersey town.

Kurtz’s pushed for a December 2018 ordinance establishing a 660 linear foot radius between existing and new group rehab homes in Atlantic City. AC is the only town to establish common sense limits to the growth of group rehab homes in residential neighborhoods.

Jesse also spearheaded an excessive use ordinance, which establishes graduated fines for properties that are continual problems, encouraging absentee property owners to be more responsible with their occupants.

From Press of AC:

The Hansen Foundation received an order from the city to vacate the Tallahassee Avenue home after relocating residents from a facility on Bartram Avenue. The foundation is in the process of renovating the multifamily home on Raleigh Avenue, she said.

A request to speak with the city’s licensing and inspections director, Dale Finch, received no response from the Mayor’s Office.

The Atlantic City ordinance has its genesis in regulations found in Florida, where residential treatment centers were beginning to cluster, said 6th Ward Councilman Jesse Kurtz, who represents Chelsea on City Council.

Kurtz said the primary concern in the neighborhood is that it could become a “de facto social services district” and “change the character of the neighborhood.”

In researching how communities in Florida responded, Kurtz and several Chelsea residents said they found a study from Delray Beach that indicated that the clustering of sober living homes had an adverse effect on recovery.

“It’s really not fair to any community to permit a situation under the name of help where a neighborhood becomes so concentrated and so clustered with these homes that it both damages the residential character of the neighborhood and hurts the people it’s designed to help,” Kurtz said. “This is a good law, and it should be enforced.”

Chelsea resident John Sharra said he was concerned about the safety of his family, which includes four children and his wife, because of a sober living home on the beach block of Bartram Avenue.

“I have recovering addicts right behind my house, smoking cigarettes all day,” he said. “I really don’t want it.”

Diego and Emma Escobar have owned a summer home on Bartram Avenue for nearly 25 years. The couple said they met with Finch recently when they heard about the potential for another sober living home opening in the neighborhood.

“We’re not saying that sober living homes shouldn’t exist. We get it. We get them (needing to be) normalized into society so they can get back on their feet, working. It’s a good thing,” Emma Escobar said. “It’s the clustering that we’re concerned about and the density.”

The two houses operated by Hansen and the three operated by Oxford House are known recovery homes, but Kurtz conceded there could be more in the city of which officials are unaware.

Kurtz said he worked with the state Department of Community Affairs, which has oversight of Atlantic City following the 2016 takeover, to ensure the ordinance was both “common sense and compassionate.”

The DCA did not immediately respond to several questions about why the ordinance was adopted in Atlantic City or how it can be enforced.

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