Cornelius Planners vote against home for mentally ill

From the Oregonian, August 22 2008

Cornelius – A commission backs the city’s revocation of a conditional-use permit

The Cornelius Planning Commission has voted to uphold the city’s revocation of a conditional-use permit for Connell House.

The commission’s unanimous vote Wednesday is the second door to slam on the home since the state temporarily shut it down two months ago after a resident climbed over the back fence and escaped.

The secure residential treatment facility caused a stir in December when neighbors found out it was housing former Oregon State Hospital patients who were “guilty except for insanity” of serious crimes.

Richard Meyer, Cornelius development and operations director, revoked the Connell House permit in January on the grounds that Luke-Dorf, the nonprofit owner-operator, did not accurately portray the kind of home it would be when it received the permit in 2007.

Meyer also contended that the home was violating city parking codes because it was drawing far more cars than originally projected and some were parking illegally.

Luke-Dorf appealed the revocation, and at a May meeting to consider the appeal, the planning commission suggested Luke-Dorf apply for a permit modification that would address the parking issues.

In the meantime, the state closed the home while investigating the escape incident, which involved a resident who had been civilly committed, not one who committed a crime.

Instead of applying for a permit modification, Luke-Dorf asked Cornelius officials to suspend proceedings until the state investigation was completed. The attorney general’s office supported that request.

But Meyer said he did not have the authority to do so.

Luke-Dorf now has 10 business days to appeal the planning commission’s decision to the City Council.

Luke-Dorf attorney Ed Sullivan said the nonprofit hasn’t decided whether to appeal and would consult with the state, which wants to resolve concerns before reopening the home.

State officials have said they’d like Connell House to reopen, Sullivan said, but Luke-Dorf had to lay off workers when it closed and would have to overcome some economic hurdles.