WOLCOTT - The town of Wolcott has agreed to settle a federal lawsuit filed after it failed to allow a group home for mentally disabled adults to open in a residential neighborhood.
The U.S. Justice Department announced Monday the settlement would allow SELF Inc. to operate the home with up to 13 residents. The town agreed to amend zoning regulations to permit group homes with the same number of people allowed in other residences of the same size, and implementing a reasonable accommodation policy, federal officials said.
The town also agreed to pay $350,000 in damages to SELF and L&R Realty, as well as a $10,000 penalty to the federal government, according to the settlement agreement.
SELF and L&R Realty filed a complaint with the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development in December 2020, alleging that the town, after learning of plans for the home, amended its zoning regulations to prohibit any community residence for adults with disabilities from operating in Wolcott.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development referred the case to the Justice Department, which filed the lawsuit, alleging Wolcott had violated the federal Fair Housing Act.
“Local governments do not have the right to use zoning laws and restrictions as a vehicle to discriminate against people with disabilities,” Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division said Monday. “Individuals with disabilities have the right to equal housing opportunities, and the Department of Justice is committed to vigorous enforcement of federal law to stop municipalities from violating this right.”
Wolcott Mayor Thomas Dunn did not immediately respond to a phone call seeking comment.
The settlement must still be approved by a U.S. District Court judge.