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Springfield signs agreement on VOA group home
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The city of Springfield and an organization seeking to open a second group home for people with mental and intellectual disabilities have reached an agreement in a lawsuit filed against the city.

Volunteers of America sued the city in June 2012, claiming discrimination in the city’s zoning practices. The organization, which has operated a group home on Deer Road for more than 15 years, said the city was unlawfully denying its request to establish a group home on Chestnut Street. VOA filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development on Aug. 13, 2012, alleging discrimination.

After a special called meeting Wednesday night, Springfield City Council members voted 3-0 to accept the HUD conciliation agreement. Council member Steve Shealy, who lives next door, abstained from voting and Troy Allen was not present.

Under the agreement, the VOA waives the right to sue the city, city council or planning and zoning board, and the city also gives up its right to sue the VOA from any matter stemming from the case.

The VOA will seek a license to operate a group home for four individuals on Chestnut Street. Once the state Department of Behavioral and Developmental Disabilities grants the license, the city has 30 days to give the go-ahead for the Chestnut Street group home. The license could take 90-120 days to be awarded.

Also as part of the settlement, the city will pay an agreed-upon sum that will go toward attorney’s fees.

Within six months, council members and planning and zoning board members  will attend training on the federal Fair Housing Act at their own expense.