48. The 1,000-foot rule in its overbreadth is akin to the fire and safety codes struck down by the United States District Court for the Northern District of Ohio. In Marbrunak v. City of Stow, No. 5:90 CV 0925 (N.D. Ohio July 29, 1991) (Plaintiff's Trial Exhibit 67), the City of Stow defended its heightened safety and fire code regulations for small residences in which developmentally disabled persons lived by arguing that they are necessary to protect the residents. The court held that, while the stringent codes imposed by the City may increase safety, the City was prohibited by the Fair Housing Act from using "its concern for the safety and health of its disabled citizens as a pretext for actions that are actually based on outdated and unfounded prejudices and stereotypes about the abilities and limitations of handicapped persons."
49. In striking down the fire and safety requirements, the court reasoned that such "blanket" restrictions contravenes the FHAA mandate that group homes for people with handicaps be considered on a case-by-case basis. Id. at 24-25.
50. Like the safety and fire code rules in Marbrunak, the 1,000-foot requirement cuts with too broad a swath. It presumes that a community is saturated with homes if they are less than 1,000 feet apart. The distance rule is particularly offensive in high density areas.
51. The relief sought by the plaintiff weighs in its favor as to the final prong of disparate impact analysis. Horizon House asks that the Court declare Ordinance No. 300 unconstitutional and enjoin its enforcement. Horizon House is not asking that the Township affirmatively establish housing; only that the Township not restrict such housing.
52. In sum, because the 1,000-foot rule has a disparate impact on people with handicaps and because the Township has not shown a rational basis or legitimate interest to support the spacing requirement, the 1,000-foot requirement contained in Ordinance No. 300 violates the Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. § 3604(f)(1) and (2).
G. The Spacing Requirement Discriminates Against People with Disabilities by not Providing Them with a Reasonable Accommodation
53. The Township is also violating the reasonable accommodation provision of the Fair Housing Act through the enactment and enforcement of the 1,000-foot rule in Ordinance No. 300. 42 U.S.C. 3604(f)(3)(B). Under this provision, it is a discriminatory housing practice to refuse to make "reasonable accommodations in rules, policies, practices, or services when such accommodations may be necessary to afford such person equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling." Id. (emphasis added).
54. One of the purposes behind the reasonable accommodation provision is to address individual needs and respond to individual circumstances. House Report at 18 (The Fair Housing Act "mandates that persons with handicaps be considered as individuals.")
55. Under this provision, affirmative steps are required to change rules or practices if they are necessary to allow a person with a disability an opportunity to live in the community: "The concept of 'reasonable accommodation' has a long history in regulations and case law dealing with discrimination on the basis of handicap. A discriminatory rule, policy, practice or service is not defensible simply because that is the manner in which such rule or practice has traditionally been constituted. This section would require that changes be made to such traditional rules or practices if necessary to permit a person with handicaps an equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling." House Report, at 25; see also Nathanson v. Medical College of Pennsylvania, 926 F.2d 1368, 1384-85 (3d. Cir. 1991).
56. Courts interpreting the reasonable accommodation provision of the Fair Housing Act have ruled that municipalities such as Upper Southampton Township must change, waive, or make exceptions in their zoning rules to afford people with disabilities the same opportunity to housing as those who are without disabilities. United States v. Village of Marshall, 787 F. Supp. 872, 876-78 (W.D. Wis. 1992); United States v. Puerto Rico, 764 F. Supp. 220, 224 (D.P.R. 1991); Oxford House-Evergreen v. Plainfield, 769 F. Supp. 1329, 1344-45 (D.N.J. 1991).
57. The distance rule in Ordinance No. 300 is a blanket and categorical rule. The Township's position that a provider obtain a variance to open up a group home within l,000 feet of another is no accommodation at all. As demonstrated by the facts of this case, a variance is a lengthy, costly and burdensome procedure.
H. The Spacing Requirement Violates the Equal Protection Clause
58. Once a classification scheme is shown which treats people with disabilities differently than people without disabilities, the Township must show that the scheme is rationally related to a legitimate governmental interest. See Cleburne v. Cleburne Living Center, 473 U.S. 432, 439, 87 L. Ed. 2d 313, 105 S. Ct. 3249 (1985).
59. I have found as a fact and concluded above that Upper Southampton Township has no rational basis for imposing a distance rule on people with disabilities while allowing biological families and five or fewer unrelated people without disabilities to live wherever they wish. There has been no showing that the Horizon House homes or any other home for disabled citizens has had an adverse impact on Upper Southampton Township. Furthermore, there has been no showing that the 1000-foot distance requirement, which is the equivalent of three-and-one-third football fields, between homes or apartments of people with disabilities is rationally related to any legitimate government purpose. To the contrary, the evidence has shown that this is only related to the Township's ungrounded fears about people with handicaps. Ordinance No. 300 simply makes it more difficult for citizens with disabilities to live near one another in the pursuit of happiness to which we are all entitled.
Based on the foregoing findings of facts and conclusions of law, 1000-foot spacing requirement in Ordinance No. 300 violates the FHAA and the equal protection clause of the United States Constitution and plaintiff will be granted injunctive relief declaring it invalid and enjoining its enforcement.
An appropriate Order follows.
EDITOR'S NOTE: The following court-provided text does not appear at this cite in 804 F. Supp. 683.
AND NOW, on this 28th day of August, 1992, upon consideration of the claim of plaintiff Horizon House, and having considered all of the evidence of record before me including the exhibits and testimony at trial, and for the reasons set forth in the accompanying Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law, it is hereby DECLARED that the 1000-foot spacing requirement in Ordinance No. 300 violates the equal protection clause of the United States Constitution and the Fair Housing Amendments Act and is thereby invalid and it is hereby ORDERED that defendants, as well as their agents, representatives, boards, departments and employees shall not enforce the 1000-foot spacing requirement at anytime.
LOWELL A. REED, JR., J.