Councilman Kim Spears then asked Fischer if he thought allowing six unrelated people in a home – a requirement of state law for halfway houses like this – was a substantial change. And Kennedy said it was, perhaps creating some confusion about what the “fundamental change” standard meant for this case.
A husband and wife who live near Belle House, Sean and Kate Webb, testified against the proposed change. He said he was a former alcoholic himself, so he understood the cause.
“This isn’t uppity Upper North Mankato snob looking down my nose at a sober house,” he said. “I wish these women the best of luck.”
But he said the house did not need extra residents, in part because other sober houses around the state make do with six clients. And he referenced the state law allowing a minimum of six residents, noting it was already three times the unrelated occupants allowed by local law.
“If three times the number is not reasonably accommodating, I’m not sure what is,” he said.
As the vote was called, there were two votes for and two against when Mayor Mark Dehen got his turn. He considered his vote for perhaps five or 10 seconds, then voted “no.”
Joining him were Councilmen Bob Freyberg and Billy Steiner. Councilman Kim Spears and Councilwoman Diane Norland voted in favor of the occupancy increase.
Grabitske said he’ll almost certainly appeal the decision, to a state appeals court.