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AG Says City Tried to Block Recovery Center

INDIANAPOLIS (CN) - Zoning officials in Columbus, Ind., tried to keep a drug and alcohol recovery center out of the city, simply because community members weren't comfortable living next to recovering addicts, the U.S. attorney general claims in Federal Court.

In 2005, the Bethesda House asked the city for permission to operate. The center would house up to 11 recovering drug addicts and alcoholics at a time.

The city's zoning committee turned down the request under pressure from local residents and members of the Board of Zoning Appeals, who objected to having recovering addicts living near them, the lawsuit states.

In response, Bethesda House agreed to limit visitors and give community members a say in who was accepted into the program, the government says. Its owners allegedly assured the community that Bethesda House would be controlled, and that residents would be tested regularly for drugs and alcohol.

But the city again denied the Bethesda House's application for operation, despite a recommendation from the planning department.

Atty. Gen. Eric Holder says the zoning committee turned down the Bethesda House solely because its residents would be recovering drug and alcohol abusers.

He seeks a court declaration that the city's actions violated the Fair Housing Act. Holder also wants Columbus to pay civil penalties and damages.

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