Safety Harbor group home for disabled young men looks to open in November

Neighbors in Harbor Woods had fought against it

SAFETY HARBOR, Fla. - "I'm not happy about the business being there.  But I'm going to be the best neighbor that I can be," said Rich Ireland.

Ireland is talking about the business that's going to be moving into a home in his neighborhood.  The one with the multiple 'No Trespassing' signs in the yard and windows. Ireland's house sits directly next door to what will be a group home for up to six young adult men with mental disabilities.

He says supports the men, just not the way the home is set up to be operated.

"It's a business.  That's the thing, it's a business," Ireland said.

There's already another assisted living facility group home around the corner.  And when Bonnie Jo Hill bought the house next to Ireland last year, the City of Safety Harbor denied her request to turn to it into a group home based on a state law that prohibits two from operating within a thousand feet of each other.  

Hill then filed a federal housing discrimination complaint against the city.

The Department of Justice told the City of Safety Harbor that the type of home and the people that would be living there have protections under Federal statute.

The city commission agreed Wednesday night to a settlement with Hill that allows the home to open and the city to abide by the Federal Fair Housing Act. As part of the settlement, Hill and her Attorney received $400,000 from the city's insurer.

In a statement to ABC Action News, the attorney for the group home, Richard Heiden, says his client applauds the city's decision to allow the facility.

He says the facility is making a positive change in the lives of those special citizens.

Residents in the Harbor Woods neighborhood say they'll just have to live with it for now. 

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