IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE WESTERN DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
Civil Action No.
THE CITY OF JOHNSTOWN,
1. This action is brought by the United States of America to enforce the provisions of the Fair Housing Act, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 3601, et seq.
2. This Court has jurisdiction over this action under 28 U.S.C. § 1345 and 42 U.S.C. § 3614(a).
3. The City of Johnstown is a political subdivision of the State of Pennsylvania within the Western District of Pennsylvania, organized under the laws of the State, and located in the southwestern part of Pennsylvania.
4. The City of Johnstown, acting through its Mayor and City Council, exercises zoning and land use authority over land within its boundaries. The Johnstown Planning and Zoning Code contains the City's zoning and land use regulations.
5. On or about April 15, 1999, the American Legion Department of Pennsylvania Housing for Homeless Veterans Corporation (" the American Legion") applied for a conditional use to open and operate a group residence in the City of Johnstown to house homeless veterans. In its application, the American Legion notified the City that the purpose of the proposed facility was to house, educate, and provide assistance to homeless veterans with disabilities. (The term " disability " has the same meaning as the term " handicap," as defined in 42 U.S.C. § 3602(h).)
6. The homeless veterans living at the facility would have a range of disabilities from post-traumatic stress disorder to recovering from alcohol and substance abuse. Abstinence from drug and alcohol use would be a condition of continuing residence at the proposed facility. If that condition were violated, the individual would be removed from the facility.
7. The proposed site was the former Maple Park School at 1040 Jacoby Street, in Johnstown (" the Maple Park School"). The site had previously been used as a school, a business for commercial enterprise, and a prior facility to house homeless veterans.
8. On or about May 5, 1999, the City's Planning Commission held a public hearing to consider the American Legion's application for a conditional use at the Maple Park School. At the hearing there was neighborhood opposition to the proposed housing facility based on the fact that the prospective residents would be people with disabilities. By a vote of 6-0, the Planning Commission recommended the application to the City Council for approval with the condition that there be 24 hour professional supervision at the facility.
9. On or about June 9, 1999, the City Council held two public meetings relating to the American Legion's application for a conditional use for the proposed facility. At the first meeting, neighbors of the Maple Park School and area residents made comments opposing the American Legion's application based on the fact that the prospective residents of the home would be people with disabilities. Immediately following that public meeting was the regularly-scheduled City Council meeting. During the City Council meeting, neighbors of the Maple Park School and area residents also made comments indicating opposition to the siting of the proposed facility based on the fact that the prospective residents of the home would be people with disabilities.
10. On or about June 9, 1999, the City Council, after hearing these comments from the public, denied by a vote of 6-0 the American Legion's application. As part of the vote, various council members stated that they were voting to deny the American Legion's application based on neighborhood opposition.
11. The proposed residents of the facility are handicapped within the meaning of 42 U.S.C. § 3602(h).
12. The proposed residential facility is a dwelling within the meaning of 42 U.S.C. § 3602(b).
13. The defendant's refusal to approve an application for a conditional use has prevented the American Legion from establishing and operating the proposed group home at the Maple Park School site.
14. The defendant's actions in refusing to approve the American Legion's application for a conditional use were taken on account of the handicap of the prospective residents of the facility, in violation of 42 U.S.C. §§ 3604(f)(1) and 3604(f)(2).
15. The City's conduct was intentional, willful, and taken in disregard of the rights of others.
16. The defendant's refusal to allow the American Legion to establish and operate the housing facility at the Maple Park School constitutes a denial to a group of persons of rights granted by Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1988, 42 U.S.C. §§ 3601-3619, that raises an issue of general public importance, 42 U.S.C. § 3614 (a).
17. The American Legion and other persons who have been, or who may have been, the victims of the City's discriminatory practices are aggrieved persons, as defined in 42 U.S.C. § 3602(i). These persons have suffered, or may have suffered, damages as a result of the defendant's conduct.
WHEREFORE, the United States prays that the Court enter an ORDER that:
1. Declares that the actions of the City of Johnstown described above constitute a violation of the Fair Housing Act;
2. Enjoins the City of Johnstown, its agents, employees, assigns, successors and all other persons in active concert or participation with them, from violating any provision of the Fair Housing Act by discriminating on the basis of handicap;
3. Enjoins the City of Johnstown, its agents, employees, assigns, successors and all other persons in active concert or participation with them, to make reasonable accommodations in their policies, practices, rules, or services as required by the Fair Housing Act, including accommodations that permit the establishment and operation of group residences for persons with disabilities;
4. Requires such action by the City of Johnstown as may be necessary to restore all persons aggrieved by the City's discriminatory housing practices to the position they would have occupied but for such discriminatory conduct;
5. Awards such damages as would fully compensate each person aggrieved by the City of Johnstown's discriminatory housing practices for their injuries caused by such discriminatory conduct, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 3614(d)(1)(B);
6. Awards each person aggrieved by the City of Johnstown's discriminatory housing practices appropriate punitive damages, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 3614(d)(1)(B); and
7. Assesses a civil penalty against the City of Johnstown in an amount of money authorized by 42 U.S.C. § 3614(d)(1)(C), in order to vindicate the public interest.
The United States further prays for such additional relief as the interests of justice may require.
Mary Beth Buchanan
United States Attorney
Ralph F. Boyd, Jr.
Assistant Attorney General
Civil Rights Division
Document Filed: October 21, 2002 > >