SANFORD — On Jan. 1, sober houses will require a license in Sanford, following a unanimous vote of the five city councilors present at a City Council meeting on Tuesday.

The licensing sets requirements for operators and a set of house rules that must be adhered to, unless the operation is certified by the Maine Association of Recovery licenses.

It is the last of many business license categories approved by the City Council in recent months, and while some in the recovery community approve of the requirement and its provisions, others raised questions.

Journey House Treasurer Rob Korobkin said he was a strong believer in the life and safety requirements outlined in the ordinance but questioned limiting  the number of  people in a sober residence to eight. He added that landlords might not want to deal with house rules, and so not rent to sober houses.

Journey House operates two recovery homes in Sanford; one for men, the other for women.

Community Development Director Ian Houseal said a sober house would be better off to apply for a license and request a reasonable accommodation than not apply.

Councilor Robert Stackpole pointed out that Journey House is a business.

“In Sanford, we regulate businesses,” Stackpole said.

Tim Cheney, owner of ENSO Recovery in south Sanford, said he supports the ordinance.

“We are for sober houses,” he said. “We want to make sure appropriate regimens and guidelines are adhered to.”

The licensing process is designed to protect residents, maintain health and safety standards for the protection of residents and neighbors and ensure adequate police, fire and emergency response.

Licensing for alcohol and drug free houses will require a $100 annual fee; an inspection for life safety codes, permission from the property owner to operate a sober living program on the premises; the operator must have two years experience; and there are an array of house rules. As well, the facility must not be located within 500 feet of another business of the same kind.

Applicants for a license for an alcohol and drug free residence would be required to submit their house rules as part of the application that state, at a minimum, that there be no alcohol or non-professionally administered drug use on or off the premises; eviction for residents who fail to provide a urine sample to staff when asked or for committing or threatening violence; no visitors without management approval and no overnight guests and adherence to house curfew. Borrowing money from staff or residents if forbidden, residents must sign in and out, the operator must provide access to staff around the clock, and more. Those with outstanding criminal warrants would not be able to live in the home. Smoking would not be allowed.

An alternative to the house rules is certification by the Maine Association of Recovery Residences.

Councilors Stackpole, John Tuttle, Joseph Hanslip, Maura Herlihy and Deputy Mayor Lucas Lanigan all approved the ordinance. Councilor Fred Smith and Mayor Tom Cote were absent.

Journey House recently withdrew a discrimination complaint it had filed against the city of Biddeford with the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development. Journey House had operated a sober living residence in a multi-unit building on Hill Street until mid-October 2017. Journey House founder Jesse Harvey declined to comment on his reasons for withdrawing the complaint.

— Senior Staff Writer Tammy Wells can be contacted at 324-4444 (local call in Sanford) or 282-1535, ext. 327 or [email protected]

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