CROWN POINT — When Dan Bajda noticed he was getting new neighbors in Waterside Crossing, a subdivision filled with quarter-million-dollar homes off 109th Avenue in Crown Point, he says he didn't fully grasp what was happening.
He didn’t expect the home, nestled amid single-family residences, would be used as a drug treatment halfway house.
According to Bajda, other residents in the subdivision and some city officials, the home on 106th Place is being used to house eight to 10 people for that purpose.
Now, the city is looking to regulate the home that moved into the neighborhood without notice, according to a lawsuit filed Tuesday evening.
The filing comes after city officials say they attempted, through Crown Point's municipal legal department, to work with the owner of the single-family home, CapGrow Partners, and its apparent lessee, Pinnacle Treatment Centers.
"The city has been very, very patient on this. We were hoping that the petitioner would get on the docket to go through the administrative process," Crown Point Mayor David Uran told The Times Wednesday.
"I know that our residents, they would want that as well. They want to be able to provide their insight on what their neighborhood, to them, should look like and what their concerns would be and questions."
The city is seeking a permanent court injunction, as well as a judgment, that would require CapGrow and Pinnacle Treatment Centers to comply with the city's zoning code.
The city also is seeking damages in an unspecified amount, saying it "has been damaged, and continues to be damaged" by zoning code violations made by CapGrow and Pinnacle Treatment Centers, according to the lawsuit.
"Defendants' violations of the zoning code also are offensive to the senses and interfere with the comfortable enjoyment of life or property, and therefore constitute a nuisance under Indiana Code Section 32-30-6-6," the lawsuit states.
Over the past several months, the city has tried to work with CapGrow and Pinnacle Treatment Centers, encouraging both to file a petition for a use variance for the property, which is zoned R-1, the lawsuit states.
According to the city's zoning code, section 150.14, an R-1 district is for residential use. Under the zoning code, only dwellings that "would not detract from the residential character of the neighborhood" are permitted.
However, both CapGrow and Pinnacle Treatment Centers "failed to abide by the city’s deadline to file the petition, and once filed, the petition did not meet all of the requirements for a complete and proper petition," the lawsuit alleges.
By failing to file the proper petitions, residents have not been given the proper opportunity to voice concerns about the issue, Uran said.
According to its website, CapGrow purchases existing homes, as well as new, custom-built homes, to provide “safe, secure and appropriate housing for individuals with behavioral health needs.”
The company then leases the homes to partners “at an affordable rate and for a length of time that meets their operational needs," according to the site.
Lake County records indicate CapGrow bought the Waterside Crossing home Feb. 25.
CapGrow officials declined to be interviewed by The Times.
According to its website, Pinnacle Treatment Centers is "one of the nation’s leading providers of quality treatment for alcohol and substance use disorders."
Pinnacle Treatment Centers officials also have declined to answer various questions posed by The Times.
The proximity of the home to otherwise single-family residences is stirring controversy among Waterside Crossing residents.
More than 100 residents from the subdivision attended an Aug. 18 meeting at a park in Waterside to discuss the matter with city officials.
Many posed questions to those officials, including Mayor Uran; District 1 Councilman Chad Jeffries; Chief of Staff Greg Falkowski; Planning Administrator Anthony Schlueter; and Assistant City Attorney Alex Kutanovski.
What laws protect us? What steps can be taken to prevent this from happening again? Is there a Pinnacle representative on the premises at all times making sure rules are followed?
Those were all among the questions.
Uran, who stood in the middle of the group, repeatedly told residents he couldn't supply answers he didn't have.
"I'm very transparent and upfront," Uran said at one point. "I don't have an answer for you for it."
Uran said during the meeting the home had been inspected by the city's building inspector, who found no violations.
"We didn't allow anybody to come in here. I didn't sign off and say, 'Take that house right here in Waterside; you'll love it, great neighbors.' OK? That's not the case," Uran told the gathering.
"Understand that we're going to do everything that we can do as a city to make sure anybody who wants to do business or wants to live in Crown Point has a quality of life."
Many of the questions remain unanswered, as both Pinnacle and CapGrow have yet to file a complete petition with the city and have declined to comment.
Bajda said he's concerned the home will continue to go unregulated, fearing it may be protected under two federal acts. Some city officials have shared in that concern.
Under the Fair Housing Act, people cannot be discriminated against when renting or buying a home, seeking a mortgage, seeking housing assistance or "engaging in other housing-related activities."
The act prohibits discrimination because of "race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status or disability."
Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, drug addiction and alcoholism are considered disabilities.
Bajda, a retired Lake County Sheriff’s Department officer who served the department for 23 years, told The Times men and women have been in and out of the home since March.
Bajda said the unregulated "revolving door" of people is concerning.
"We have 27 kids on our block, and both ends of the block are bus stops," said Bajda, noting he has a 6-year-old daughter. "I'm not against recovery or anything like that, but there's a place for it. And it's not in a single-family subdivision."
He later added: "It's really nerve-racking. Even if they were there for a year, or even six months — where you actually get to know them — it'll be a little less of a burden on me."
Not everyone in the neighborhood, however, is against the home. Savannah Moore, who moved to Waterside Crossing more than a year ago, said she understands why people are concerned.
But she expressed kindness to those living in the home.
Moore said some social media conversations regarding the home in the subdivision's Facebook group had "a lot of hateful language towards the people in recovery and making assumptions about them."
"That could be just as true of any other neighbor. We don't know what other things people are struggling with or dealing with in our neighborhood because their lives aren't put on public display like these people's now are," said Moore, who has two daughters.
She later added: "Even if maybe this isn't the best place for a halfway house — I'm not the best judge of that — but at least affording the kindness and the proper route of going about things, rather than stirring up the angry mob against a house and posting pictures of them and all that kind of stuff."
Benefits of sober living
John Adams, director of a supportive living program at Fairbanks Treatment and Recovery Center based in Indianapolis, told The Times sober living homes offer a buffer between a low point and getting back to normal.
Fairbanks offers accredited recovery programs, according to the National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers.
Adams, who has been in recovery for nearly a decade, said not everyone needs a supportive living program. The program, however, provides accountability and structure, he said.
"We push them (those in recovery) to limits that they may not otherwise achieve on their own, going back to where they're from," Adams said. "We have job requirements. We have service work requirements; you have to get involved in volunteering. ... These aren't choices."
Residents in the Fairbanks supportive living program live in an apartment, abide by a curfew, have to attend five 12-step meetings a week and consent to random drug and alcohol screenings.
"What we do is we don't judge, and we give people the opportunity to get back to — not even get back to — but become the man or woman that they were supposed to be," Adams said.