Bel Air Residents Speak Out Against Group Homes

Four members of the community spoke at Monday's town hall meeting about the issue.

Group homes have become a sore point in the Town of Bel Air over the years, and four residents relayed their concerns to town officials during .

, former mayor of Bel Air and county councilman, said there are six group homes, or rehabilitation homes, within a block of his Bel Air home and a proposal for seventh.

“You don’t establish a solid community with seven group homes within an eight block radius,” Cassilly, who lives on East Broadway, said.

He and three other members of the community went before the board Monday to urge the board to do something about density issues and not approve the seventh home.

"It’s a small town, you live next to your neighbors and you need those connections,” Cassilly said.

He explained that sense of community fostered in Bel Air is an important dynamic to preserve, and group homes are businesses that should not be clustered in one place.

"I think it’s very unfair for the people living in the area," Gail Sullivan said of the growing number of group homes near her home on Franklin Street.

Rob Hruz echoed Cassilly and Sullivan’s comments.

"Things are getting ugly where we live, rapidly, and I mean ugly in a sense of community," Hruz said.

Hruz said he and his wife planned to move to East Broadway knowing there were three group homes in the area. Before they moved in, however, two more group homes were established in the neighborhood.

Hruz said he feels his neighborhood is growing closer to a 50/50 split between inpatient residents and homeowners, later adding, "what good does it do even for them if the community does not look like a community."

Hruz said something has to be done with dignity and compassion in mind, taking into account the real struggles many in the group homes are facing, some of whom he has befriended over the years.

The town encouraged the Harford County delegation to the Maryland General Assembly to pass a bill to control the density of group homes in 2010, according to an ExploreHarford.com report.

That same report states legislators were warned by the Attorney General's office that establishing zoning standards for the homes would be illegal.

Deborah Cassilly said she recognizes there is legal protection of group homes, however, she said she feels the law should at least be ammended to address density concerns.

She said the issue is important to more than just those present at Monday's meeting and told the board to expect to hear more from the community on the topic.

said Hruz’s comments, and the comments of others, did not fall on deaf ears and the town continues to look into the issue.

Commissioner said the issue of group homes has been one of the most frustrating to him over the years because federal laws protect them.

“We do talk with our state legislators and I think that’s the way we need to go,” Preston said.

What are your thoughts on group homes? Do you feel there are too many or too few in town? Tell us in the comments.

MD Continental April 19, 2012 at 09:25 PM
I would disagree with the opinion of the Attorney Generals office on the illegality of zoning for these homes. If the zoning was to absolutely ban them, then it may be illegal. But to just manage the density is simple common sense that would benefit both the neighborhood as well as those in the group home. The Attorny General needs to use brain power on this one.
G D April 20, 2012 at 12:24 PM
Small town feel? Have you seen the OVER- development in and around the Bel Air /Abingdon area? It's pretty obvious no one is listening. It's all about the tax base and greedy developers. Worry about group homes? how about too many homes and businesses period, with infrastructure gasping to keep up. SHEEEEZ.
Rebecca April 20, 2012 at 02:00 PM
I can't believe people can be so ignorant!! I pray to God no one in your family ever need the assistance of a group home, you will then quickly see just how much these homes are needed!!!! When I was 29, living with the man I was going to marry and had known my entire life, mental illness reared it's ugly head something that can and does come out of nowhere. The reality is that one day he will need a group home when I become unable to care for him! The people rallying against it should be ashamed of yourself you are no better than the people who need these homes, a safe place to try to regroup and live some resemblence of a normal life!!!! Shame on all of you!!!!
Tom Brandis April 20, 2012 at 02:53 PM
Rebecca, I don't think anyone, yet, has said no to a group home. I see the need, as well as many others. I believe the problem to be how many of these group homes are in a certain area. If I lived in a neighborhood of 100 homes and 25 of them ended up being group homes, I'd have a major problem with that. Not only would it effect my homes value, but I'd be a little worried about exactly who is living at these group homes, which is not public info. We've already witnessed the decline of Edgewood over he past decade due to the relocation of section 8 housing from Baltimore's inner city to the area. Granted, most of those people are hard working honest people, but, there has also been an influx of a bad element as well.
Rob Hruz, Jr April 20, 2012 at 03:19 PM
Rebecca, I understand how you and others feel toward the needs of those who require this sort of treatment. We have been and will remain compassionate toward those in such need and have had both friends and family that have gone through similar programs. This is certainly not an attempt to bash those inpatient residents in need of treatment or those that run, operate and or own them, generally speaking. It becomes a problem when they concentrate in residential areas, and overwhelm the families and residents looking for a sense of community that is being taken away from them by business owners chosing to concentrate these homes in such a small area. Currently, there are 13 group homes in the town of Bel Air with 6-12 residents per home. 5 of which are within the 1 block intersection of E. Broadway and Franklin Street, which is within 1 block of Bel Air Elementary. The sheer concentration has demised the community that is "only" attributed to their numbers. They are preparing to move into 220 Franklin Street, which will be their 6th such home in the 2 block radius among only 17 single family homes. Keep in mind that this is a result of actions of MRP/Maryland Recovery Partners, a "for profit" business, in trying to make their business more managable and profitable with no regard for our community, or for the town of Bel Air.
Lynn April 20, 2012 at 03:25 PM
I have nothing against group homes and the service they provide. What is frustrating is that the zoning rules leave too much room for such businesses to come into residential neighborhood and do not do enough to protect the integrity of neighborhoods. And at the end of the day they are businesses with staff coming and going, requiring more and contstant traffic than a typical neighborhood could support. They are not always suitable for a neighborhood despite group home owners trying to justify the fit.
1ke April 20, 2012 at 03:27 PM
Rob Hruz, Jr April 20, 2012 at 03:32 PM
Additionally and further to my point. There will be more of the transient, inpatient residents than actual residents and that is simply an intollerable situation for not just our community, but for any community. Also, these folks are moving in from out of state and are protected by HIPA and ADA laws such that we do not even know the background of those being placed here. Imagine having a large concentraction of drug and alcohol residents in close proximity without having the legal capability of finding out their background. It simply further complicates things and makes it all the more undesirable. Businesses that do this know fully well that they are within the law to bring as many homes likes these into the community.
Tom Brandis April 20, 2012 at 04:05 PM
Agreed, regarding the illegality issue. If these are "For Profit" businesses that own these homes in residentially zoned communities, then they are illegal. They are running a business in a residential area, that's a no no as far as I know.
jj April 20, 2012 at 04:33 PM
Tom Brandis April 20, 2012 at 05:34 PM
You probably rent or live in an apartment, don't you? When you own your own home and your community starts to have an influx of these group homes, then you'll probably change you mind. As stated a few times in the above posts, no one seems to have a problem with a group home. It's only when too many are in the same area, especially when you don't know who is living there. Everyone deserves to have second chance and these homes are probably helpful, however, I'd be a little unnerved having a bunch of recovering drug addicts who possibly have violent criminal pasts due to drug usage, or even worse, sex offenders. I have children, and I didn't pay good money for my home to have this happen to my community, and the possibly risks associated with having group homes surrounding me.
Rebecca April 20, 2012 at 08:11 PM
GROUP HOMES ARE NOT HALF WAY HOUSES!!! EDUCATE YOURSELVES!!! Half way houses are the things too be afraid of, group homes typically house people with disabilities!!! But I guess the should continue to be institutionalized because your house value is is going down or you have traffic in your neighborhood. 6 patients and 2 staff is no different than your typical catholic family!!!! Get over it we do not live in 1950 anymore there are MORE people and different people do not and will not be hidden away anymore!! If you don't like MOVE to the mountains far away from my Child, because I don't want the hatred affecting him!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Rebecca April 20, 2012 at 08:13 PM
Oh and to your hippa and ada comment, I guess your neighbors should be able to google whenyou had your last prostate exam, because the way I see it, some being treated for CP, does not need to share that info with you!!!
Rebecca April 20, 2012 at 08:14 PM
3 shifts a day 3-11, 11-7, and 7-3....that does not typically interfere with a normal 9-5er.....
Karl Schuub April 21, 2012 at 12:44 AM
Put a halfway house next to anybody's elses house and it loses value. Why? It's pretty darn obvious; isn't it? Assume you are a person of moderate means and worked all your life to get out of...let's say Baltimore. The best you can do is a townhouse in Joppa and they move in a 8 unit complex next door for exCons. Who in thier right mind would buy that house? I don't want to live next door to a "house" for whatever the issue might be. I pay lots of money to have a safe and secure environment...no government has a right to just load riftraft next door.
RW Willy April 21, 2012 at 01:12 AM
Off the web site for MRP http://www.marylandrecovery.com/ "Maryland Recovery Partners offers affordable, long-term, residential care for adults recovering from the disease of alcoholism and drug addiction." Doesn't say anything about mental illness. Is it okay to be afraid now?
Phil Dirt April 21, 2012 at 01:15 AM
Along with needing a new keyboard (darn shame about that stuck exclamation point), Rebecca seems to have a problem acknowledging the argument being made that group home are not unwanted in Bel Air, but an excessive number of group homes in a specific area is.
Fed up April 22, 2012 at 06:23 AM
Would you rather have an abdanoned home next door or a group home?
RW Willy April 22, 2012 at 11:43 AM
An abandoned home can be sold to a working person/family that will have pride in ownership. A halfway house run by a for profit company! Not so much. I'll take my chances waiting for the housing market, thank you.
Rebecca April 23, 2012 at 01:43 PM
I am a person of moderate means and I work to jobs to support my family since my Son's father got sick. The best I can do is move in right across the street from a GROUP home, that I know for a fact is a group home because I use to work with a lady who lived in that group home. I think people are using the term group home to refer to a half way house 2 totally different things, I think you may fear something simply because you lack the knowledge of difference. If it is in fact a HALF WAY HOUSE, complain all you want!! But if it is in fact a ADA approved group home then SHAME on you!! One day you may find yourself or someone you LOVE deeply in need of one, then you will have to remember these comments and think HMMMM my loved one does deserve to live in a noce neighborhood!!!!!!!
Rebecca April 23, 2012 at 01:52 PM
Where am I missing any mention of MD recovery partners? No I am not missing the point at all I am simply pointing out a fact, if you don't want to be around different types of people then maybe you should move, and my exclamation points are to emphasize just how awful I think you all are! These houses are being sold by someone, I am guessing the people who lived there before, so it seems to me there was a lack of sense of community in the first place to make it an option for your neighbors to sell their houses in the first place.
Tom Brandis April 23, 2012 at 02:50 PM
I don't give a rat's arse if it's a half way house or a group home. The whole point everyone is trying to make is, too many of either in a concentrated area is going to make someone's home value drop. It seems you're too dense to get the point. Sorry about your woes, but don't come on here and make accusations that we're all ignorant and prejudice. And as far as everyone needing to educate themselves, take your own advice and learn to use spell check.
deb in bel air April 26, 2012 at 11:23 AM
NIMBY!!!!! The point is, they ARE in our back yard---SIX of them. How many are in your back yard? I think the wealth should be spread, every neighborhood can absorb one.
LB April 28, 2012 at 01:26 AM
Rebecca: Would you entrust the care of those family/friends to an unlicensed or uncertified care facility? Clearly there is need for certified (SAFE physically and spiritually)programs where recovery is important. But the program Bob cites is neither certified nor licensed facility.
L M D May 10, 2012 at 12:22 AM
It is important for these houses to be located near one another. Being near one another and near the home office provides a sense of community for the people who run the program and the residents as well. As I understand the unease of not knowing who is living in these homes, know that the program has very strict policies and strongly enforces them to keep their staff, residents and neighborhood safe. I know from personal experience how important a sense of community is in the recovery community! MRP has saved the life of someone very close to me. They offer a lot to their residents and staff. They change, save and better the lives of people who struggle with addiction. I strongly encourage compassion for those whose lives are being saved by this program. If its a sense of community you are worried about, make these men and women a part of the community. If community is important to you, then please understand that it is just as important to those in the program, and is very important to their recovery. I have witnessed the importance of having these homes near one another, as it allows for these people to care for one another from one house to the next. I don't wish to debate this issue, I just wanted to state my view. I've seen the effectiveness of what MRP has to offer, and would hate to see what they do limited simply because they want to offer more homes for those who need their help!
J. Spencer January 07, 2013 at 06:12 AM
In Aberdeen there was a religious halfway house that forced my freinds off thier meds against thier will.No one regulates some of these places.. Not all halfway houses are good some are run by fanatics some by people who don't care about the residents well being but do it for the money.Some put criminal offenders that are violent in with non- violent mentally ill people.That's what happens when we give billionaires too many tax breaks,halfway houses go bad and go unlicensed because the rich have robbed the country.And the republicans here are too busy pretending the mentally ill and the poor do suffer in harford county and need safe places to live without criminals abusive people sex offenders or addicts.What does the county do? Mix in bank robbers with psychiatric clients. I tried to warn the staff there,they didn't listen. And a female client kidnapped..it is true,I was there.Mentally ill people need a safe place,not to be lumped in with criminals.


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