The Webster Groves City Council on March 5 introduced legislation for zoning code amendments regarding group residential facilities. A final vote is set for March 19.

Representatives from the UCP (United Cerebral Palsy) Heartland agency fear the proposed changes will affect a respite care group home the organization wants to open at 450 Oak Tree Drive. Webster Groves staff insists the changes are meant to allow for more flexibility in regulations beyond state law.

The city has no provisions regarding group homes in its zoning code, and the changes have nothing to do with the house on Oak Tree, according to Director of Planning and Development Mara Perry. She said there is a need to address issues such as traffic impacts a facility might have on a neighborhood.

During the continued public hearing on March 6, a UCP Heartland representative questioned changes establishing two categories of group facilities. One is a residential care center that would require a conditional use permit. The second is a residential care home that would not.

Perry said residents in a care home tend to be more permanent. In a care center, residents tend to be more transient.

Sam Stragand, with the Metropolitan St. Louis Equal Housing and Opportunity Council, said he was concerned about the legislation’s emphasis on time of residency, adding that the federal Fair Housing Act “does not make a bright line” between permanent and other residents in enforcement.

“Please consider the impact of a conditional use permit on different types of operations – it may encourage some and discourage others,” he said.

But Addie Siefert, who lives adjacent to the Oak Tree home, said the street is very busy all day long and said she was disturbed by the prospect of staff, family and others coming and going frequently and parking in the neighborhood.