New ‘sober house’ wins approval in Carbondale

John Colson
Post Independent
Aspen, CO Colorado

CARBONDALE – Trustees unanimously approved a new “sober house” for women Tuesday, despite opposition from neighbors.

The Aspire Recovery for Women facility will take over an existing house at 246 Garfield Ave. It will be the third addiction-recovery center in town and is to be owned, occupied and managed by Kathleen Haley.

The facility is not to be a treatment center, Haley told the trustees, but a place for women who have gone through treatment for drug or alcohol addiction to live while they ease back into society.

Haley said she spent six years in Arizona running a similar facility, but wanted to return to Colorado.

“I got so many referrals from this valley,” she said of her Arizona business. “That’s kind of why I picked this valley to come home to.”

The facility will be for women only, 18 and older, and limited to seven clients at a time, according to Haley.

Neighbors protested at the meeting, arguing that the block can’t handle more traffic and parked cars, that smoking clients may stink up the neighborhood, and that the business will hurt property values.

Haley said residents will not have cars on the premises, and she and her employees will use the four required off-street parking spaces that are to be developed on the lot. Clients would be asked to meet friends or family at a park or some other location away from the house.

Neighbor Laurie Loeb said previous residents at the house would sit on the front porch and smoke cigarettes.

“I live half a block away,” Loeb said, “and I could smell the smoke.”

Town planner John Leybourne said the town does not prohibit smoking on private property.

“I’ve had seven people in my backyard, smoking cigars,” said Trustee John Foulkrod, “and I’ll be damned if anybody’s going to tell me I can’t do that.”

Kyle Stewart, a Garfield Avenue resident, argued that the sober house would harm property values and “destroy our intimate neighborhood.”

“I am not against drug and alcohol rehabilitation,” Stewart told the trustees. “However, it needs to be in an appropriate neighborhood.”

Town attorney Mark Hamilton noted that recovering drunks and addicts are a protected class under federal law, similar to disabled people, so the town must be wary about the potential for charges of discrimination.

If neighbors feel the facility is creating a nuisance once it is up and running, Hamilton said, they can petition the town to have the facility’s permit revoked.

Sharing the other trustees’ support for the project, Trustee Frosty Merriott remarked with a grin, “The Church of Carbondale is half full of recovering alcoholics, and I go there every Sunday.”