WASHINGTON, D.C. - The Justice Department today announced a settlement agreement with the City of Royal Oak, Michigan, resolving a lawsuit that alleged zoning discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The Justice Department’s complaint was filed in September 2005 in an ongoing lawsuit brought by Easter Seals-Michigan, Inc. The complaint alleged that Royal Oak engaged in discriminatory zoning practices by denying Easter Seals a land use permit for the operation of a day program, the “Clubhouse,” for adults with mental illness. The Clubhouse provides support, vocational and employment training, and social skill building to adults with mental illness, and has operated in a neighboring community for over 15 years. The city denied the permit after vocal opposition from community members, many of whom expressed unfounded fears about mentally-ill individuals walking in the neighborhood and the possibility of an effect on property values.
Under the terms of the consent judgment, which has been approved by Judge Marianne Battani of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, the Clubhouse will be permitted to open at the contested location, the city will pay monetary damages to the private plaintiffs, and city personnel will receive training on their obligations under the ADA. The city will also report to the Justice Department on land use requests involving individuals with disabilities that the city denies or grants with conditions.
“This case goes to the heart of the ADA’s promises and protections - to protect individuals with disabilities from being segregated from the community or hidden away because of unreasonable fears of their disabilities,” said Wan J. Kim, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “This settlement is a positive result for all members of the Royal Oak community.”
“We are pleased that with this consent judgment, Easter Seals may continue its important work in assisting some of our most vulnerable citizens in this district to overcome the challenges they face day-to-day because of their mental illness,” said Stephen J. Murphy, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan.
The Americans with Disabilities Act protects individuals with disabilities from discrimination in all activities of state and local government entities, including zoning and land use decisions. Additional information about the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice is available at www.usdoj.gov/crt