Judging by a joint filing in a federal-court scuffle between Avalon Residential Care Homes and the City of Dallas, the end may be in sight. Dallas has for years struggled to strike a balance between regulating the city's group homes without trampling their rights under federal housing laws. Safe to say it has stumbled in the past.
In this case, the operator of some 16 Alzheimer's group homes spread throughout North Texas says the city is violating the federal Fair Housing Act by enforcing a limit of eight disabled people under one roof in neighborhoods zoned for single-family homes. What the feds and Avalon fear is that these rules discourage group homes from setting up shop and render the existing ones insolvent.
This is round two of an ongoing bout between Avalon and the city. The two parties tangled back in 1997 over a group home spacing requirement. The civil rights division of the U.S. Attorney's Office stepped in, filing a brief that castigated the city for its onerous codes enforced "rigidly and in a manner blind" to the needs of the disabled.
Avalon has said the city is after payback now, a charge city attorneys deny. But, according to court docs, it looks like the city and Avalon are finally talking settlement. In a Wednesday filing, both parties agreed to take a break from discovery while Avalon seeks an amendment in the Dallas City Code to the eight-occupant cap for group homes.
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"If indeed Avalon gets the text amendment, that's going to be the end of the lawsuit," said Robert Schonfeld, an Avalon attorney. He declined to say whether city attorneys had offered to help. We put in a call to city attorney Christopher Caso, but haven't heard back yet.