Columbia\'s Disability Commission is looking into a city ordinance

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COLUMBIA - The Disabilities Commission is looking into one of Columbia’s ordinances after a member of the group came across an obstacle during work. 

Julie Walden, CEO of Boone Supported Living, looks for houses for people with intellectual disabilities. After weeks of looking for a house for one of her clients who uses a wheelchair, she finally found one.

“There were very few houses that had accessibility. We finally found a home, got it set up and then learned someone had a similar home like that across the street,” Walden said.

The Missouri Department of Mental Health told her that a city ordinance prohibits these types of homes from being too close to each other.

Columbia ordinance 29-6 states that group homes cannot be located within a 1,000-foot radius from each other.

“I didn’t know what to think of this so I contacted a lobbyist that lobbies for those types of things and she said it was against the fair housing act and I should follow up on it,” Walden said.

She spoke to the commission about the ordinance and the group is meeting with a city official to discuss this at its 3pm meeting Thursday.

According to Sec 29-2 of Columbia Code of Ordinances, a group home for those who are mentally or physically handicapped is defined as: “Any home in which eight (8) or fewer mentally or physically handicapped persons reside, and may include two (2) additional persons acting as houseparents or guardians who need not be related to each other or to any of the mentally or physically handicapped persons residing in the home.”

Adam Kruse, Columbia’s assistant city counselor, said the 1000-foot limit could prevent people with disabilities from getting homes in affordable areas.  

Walden said depending on the client, certan individuals need homes that are close to bus lines, wheel-chair accessible, or with fenced-in backyards.  

Other items that will be covered at the meeting include the addition of lift-equipped taxis and private shuttles, and penalities for accessible parking violations.