An ongoing neighborhood rift between Sovereign Health and the city of Fort Myers, Fla., ended in an agreement recently, with the city paying out an initial $90,000 settlement plus an additional $50,000 to reimburse Sovereign for security improvements to be made to its local dual-diagnosis residential treatment facility. Sovereign Health originally filed the Fair Housing Act / Americans With Disabilities Act discrimination lawsuit against the city in 2015.
When the program first opened, the Fort Myers Code Enforcement Board determined that the facility did not comply with zoning designations and expected it to shut its doors, prompting a “not in my backyard” (NIMBY) battle. The dispute centered around the services offered at the state-licensed facility as they relate to city zoning regulations.
The lawsuit is one of many NIMBY cases nationwide where city governments take issue with residential and sober living programs. According to a statement from Sovereign Health, allowing behavioral health treatment facilities to operate in communities does not reduce property values or encourage crime, contrary to what some local residents and zoning boards might believe. Sovereign is also engaged in a similar NIMBY dispute with the city of San Clemente, Calif.
The Florida settlement is here.