weather icon Clear

Cluster of residential drug rehabs upsets Las Vegas neighbors

Donna Botti used to enjoy walking with her toddler grandson around her cul-de-sac, stopping to chat with neighbors along the way. That was before the house across the street was converted into a residential treatment center for teens with addictions and mental health issues.

“I don’t take my grandbaby out front anymore,” said Botti, adding that she’s anxious about the increase in traffic, among other things. “These cars just zip on down the street.”

Botti and her neighbors said they were blindsided by the conversion late this summer of the Bahama Bay Court home, near Twain Avenue and Fort Apache Road in southwest Las Vegas, which has rattled their nerves over traffic, safety and home values.

They complained to Clark County government, only to be told that the residential treatment center was protected by the federal Fair Housing Act and the county’s hands were tied.

They were baffled. What does a federal law have to do with the county approving a bustling business on their formerly quiet cul-de-sac?

The short answer, according to the county, is that the Fair Housing Act prohibits housing discrimination against group homes — or “community residences,” in county government parlance — for people with disabilities. And, under the act, alcoholism, drug addiction and mental illness are considered disabilities.

The neighbors continue to grapple with the issue, their concerns only growing now that there are three such facilities within blocks of one another. But Wayne Niimi, who lives one street over from Botti, believes he knows why.

Many of the nearby homes were built in 1992 and have seven bedrooms and a large bonus room. “When we bought in, our cul-de-sac was full of kids. That’s what the spacious homes were meant for,” he said. Since then, he added, “The prices of the homes haven’t risen as you’d expect.

“They’ve taken full advantage of that, getting a large home for $100 a square-foot and converting them into these near hospitals. They found a real sweet spot in this neighborhood.”

A protected class

The Bahama Bay court home was purchased in January by the Beron Family Trust and Rachel Golda Beron Trust, and leased to Los Angeles-based Ignite Teen Treatment.

Ignite Teen Treatment operates two of the residential treatment facilities in the area, one on each side of Twain Avenue.

In an email, Ignite CEO Mendi Baron noted that “behavioral health resources are in critically short supply — and especially so for teens.”

“Ignite’s centers serve clients who voluntarily enter treatment to obtain necessary help in coping with a variety of challenging behaviors, influences and concerns that impact adolescents,” Baron said. “Ignite proudly serves teens who are struggling with a range of challenges from addiction to controlling behaviors that are impediments to success in society and the classroom.”

For the Bahama Bay Court address, the company requested the county’s approval “to house 10 adolescents in a state-licensed therapeutic family/group home setting utilizing the protections of the Federal Fair Housing and Americans with Disabilities Act(s),” according to a justification letter filed with the county.

Among the public policy goals behind allowing group homes in residential neighborhoods are that those with mental or physical limitations should not be denied a residential experience, and that support from others experiencing similar challenges improves chances for further success, said Ngai Pindell, a professor with UNLV’s Boyd School of Law.

“Without statutory protection, some local government or neighborhoods might engage in discrimination against people with disabilities — a classic NIMBY or Not in My Backyard land use challenge,” said Pindell, who teaches and writes on community development and local government law.

The Fair Housing Act, as it was amended in 1988, makes it illegal to discriminate in housing against people with handicaps, including people recovering from alcohol and drug addiction. Congressional discussion during consideration of amendments to the act, as well as related statutes, supported this inclusion, which has been upheld by the courts since the 1990s, Pindell said.

‘Running a business’

Clark County government has little discretion when it comes to community residences, a spokesman said. The county approved Ignite’s application through administrative action and did not notify neighbors.

“Community residences are required to notify us prior to opening so we can ensure they are not closer that 660 feet from the nearest community residence,” said spokesman Dan Kulin. “If they are not closer than that, they are permitted in residential areas under federal law and we do not have the discretion to deny such a use in this case. If they are closer than 660 feet, they would need a special-use permit from the county.”

The residents thought they’d found a winning argument in the distance requirements, until they learned that the distance is measured by the shortest pedestrian route and not as the crow flies. The third residence, a sober-living facility operated by SeaBreeze Wellness Center, is located three streets over from Bahama Bay Court.

The neighbors still question whether the Bahama Bay Court facility, at least, might not fit the community residence definition.

“They’re running a business out of our neighborhood,” said Victor Padron, who lives next door to the treatment center. “The whole neighborhood has changed.”

County code specifically states that the term community residence “does not include facilities for the treatment of alcohol or drug abuse.”

“The community residence should not be providing medical treatment for alcohol and drug abuse,” Kulin said. “The preclusion of treating alcohol and drug abuse relates to medical interaction and medical treatment for the condition. It in no way infers that addicts cannot live in a community residence or group housing as they are a protected class.”

Ignite states on its website that “clients at the adolescent rehab program live onsite with the 24-hour support of our treatment team comprised of licensed therapists, (a) psychiatrist, nurses, addiction specialists, experiential counselors, educators, counselors and mentors.”

Conducting medical treatment on site would violate county code, Kulin said, adding, “They are allowed to have support services, for example, transportation to medical treatment.”

Baron, the company’s CEO, did not respond to a question Friday about whether medical treatment was provided on-site.

Good neighbor

In an earlier email, Baron said, “Ignite strives to be a good neighbor while keeping its clients close to a traditional, residential neighborhood so as to not stigmatize their recovery. Specifically, Ignite has adopted numerous policies aimed at addressing the concerns of its neighbors, including complete bans on tobacco, alcohol, loitering and any activities at a loud or excessive volume.”

Padron, the next-door neighbor, said that while he doesn’t have noise complaints, he worries about the value of his home. As he bluntly put it, “Who would buy a house next to a drug rehabilitation center?”

And like his neighbors, he said he’s bothered by vehicles and shuttle buses coming and going throughout the day, and the half a dozen or more cars often parked on the street.

Michael Shannon, an aide to County Commissioner Justin Jones, whose district includes the area, emailed Botti this month that “the case in regard to illegal use is closed as the community residence is allowed in residential neighborhoods.”

“I will continue to try and work with Ignite Teen Treatment to take steps to minimize impacts to your neighborhood, especially related to traffic and parking,” Shannon said.

This was not the response the neighbors were hoping for.

“They have all the rights,” Botti said of the treatment center. “We have nothing.”

The neighbors are now contacting their representatives in Congress — the body that 30 years ago amended the Fair Housing Act.

“I can understand the spirit of the exceptions they make for these treatment facilities,” Niimi said. “I don’t think they envisioned anything like this, on this scale, having so many people in a home, and running a business out of it.”

Contact Mary Hynes at mhynes@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0336. Follow @MaryHynes1 on Twitter.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Local Videos
Jeopardy! James competes with G2E attendees
Jeopardy! champ James Holzhauer, appears at the G2E IGT booth to help celebrate launch of Jeopardy! slot machines and compete against attendees in mock games of Jeopardy!
Security guard killed in Las Vegas shooting honored
Lucky's unexpected surprise
The Ball family, who already deals with challenges most families don’t, got an unexpected surprise from a security systems worker, who brought more than just peace of mind, he brought love to one lucky little boy.
Gilcrease pumpkin patch is open - VIDEO
Gilcrease Orchard's pumpkin patch is now open for the season. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas firefighters battle a fire in a commercial area - VIDEO
Clark County and Las Vegas firefighters battle a fire in a commercial area at 824 E. Sahara Ave. in Las Vegas on Monday, Oct. 7, 2019. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Time lapse of RiSE Las Vegas festival - VIDEO
This is a time-lapse video during the sixth annual RiSE Las Vegas festival at the Jean dry lake bed on Sunday, Oct. 6, 2019. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Lanterns released into Nevada desert as part of RiSE Festival - VIDEO
Thousands of spectators released giant lanterns into the sky at a dry lake bed near Jean, Nev., Sunday night as part of the RiSE festival. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Halloween Parade at Downtown Summerlin - VIDEO
Halloween festivities are in full swing at Downtown Summerlin with the first week of the month-long parade. (James Schaeffer/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Funeral procession for Robbie James Pettingill - VIDEO
A motorcade of Henderson fire and police personnel escort the body of firefighter Robbie James Pettingill past Fire Station 82 and Fire Station 97, where he was last assigned, to Central Christian Church on Friday, Oct. 4, 2019. (Renee Summerour/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Failure not an option for Mayor Carolyn Goodman facing breast cancer - VIDEO
Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman and her oncologist talk about Goodman's second bout with breast cancer. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Hacienda bridge closures for events at Allegiant Stadium - VIDEO
The bridge at Hacienda Avenue over Interstate 15 will be closed during major events at Allegiant Stadium. (James Schaeffer/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Backyard Adventures at the Springs Preserve - VIDEO
"Backyard Adventures" is the latest temporary exhibit at the Springs Preserve. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Parents of teens who were killed in California crash visited the crash site - VIDEO
Parents of Las Vegas teens who were killed in a fiery crash last year in Huntington Beach, Calif., visited the crash site on Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2019. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutefsya
Bani Duarte convicted in California crash that killed 3 Las Vegas teens - VIDEO
Bani Duarte, the drunken driver who caused a fiery crash in Huntington Beach, California, last year that killed three Las Vegas teens, was convicted of second-degree murder on Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2019. (Renee Summerour/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Wrap-up of Oct. 1 observances - VIDEO
A wrap-up of memorials and observances on the second anniversary of the mass shooting on the Las Vegas Strip, Oct. 1, 2019. (Renee Summerour/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Victims of Oct. 1 shooting in Las Vegas remembered - VIDEO
Remembrance video honors the 58 people who were killed at the Route 91 Harvest festival on Oct. 1, 2017, on the Las Vegas Strip. (Clark County)
UNLV music program rings bell 58 times to remember victims of Oct. 1 shooting - Video
UNLV music students will ring a set of chimes 58 times in honor of the victims of the Route 91 Harvest festival shooting. (Nathan Asselin/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Memorial bench unveiled at North Las Vegas park to honor Route 91 victims and survivors - VIDEO
The family of Route 91 victim Neysa Tonks worked with the city of North Las Vegas to erect a memorial bench overlooking a pond at Craig Ranch Regional Park. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Gov. Steve Sisolak and Joe Robbins Speak at Oct. 1 Remembrance Ceremony - Video
Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak and Joe Robbins speak to the crowd at the Clark County Government Center Amphitheater to remember the victims of the 1 Oct. shooting that occurred in 2017 at the Route 91 festival. (Michael Quine and Nathan Asselin/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Day 6 of Bani Duarte trial in California
Police say Bani Duarte, 29, was drunk when she drove into a car carrying four Las Vegas teens, killing three, in Huntington Beach, California on March 29, 2018. She is being tried on murder charges in Santa Ana. (Renee Summeropur/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Troy and Shannon Zeeman talk about life after Oct 1 shooting - VIDEO
Troy and Shannon Zeeman of Garden Grove, California, discuss life after Oct 1 shooting in Las Vegas. The couple started Security Consultant Zeeman, dedicated to active shooter preparedness training. (Elizabeth Brumley/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Reflecting on Oct. 1: How Metro officers saved a life
Oct. 1 was the second day on the job for Officer Brandon Engstrom who saved a critically injured woman amid the chaos of the Route 91 shooting. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Healing Garden remains a gathering place
It's been two years since the mass shooting of Oct. 1, and the Healing Garden has grown and evolved. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas police investigate fatal crash - VIDEO
Las Vegas police investigate fatal crash at the intersection of West Sahara Avenue and Steve Rigazio Court in Las Vegas on Wednesday, Sept. 24, 2019. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Reflecting on Oct. 1: How one officer saved a life
Oct. 1 was the second day on the job for Officer Brandon Engstrom who saved a critically injured woman amid the chaos of the Route 91 shooting. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
76 animals confiscated from North Las Vegas home - VIDEO
Service dogs, birds, a pig and other animals were confiscated from the North Las Vegas home of an animal activist and former actress. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Mother, child and 41 dogs rescued after North Las Vegas house fire - VIDEO
North Las Vegas PIO Patrick Walker talks about a house fire in North Las Vegas where a mother, her child and 41 dogs were rescued on Sept. 24, 2019. (Max Michor/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Miracle Flights greets patient ambassador Michael Perrino in Las Vegas - VIDEO
The Miracle Flights team welcomes 16-year-old Michael Perrino and his family to Las Vegas for their annual Swings for Wings fundraiser at TopGolf. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Storm Area 51 Day 3 Update 1
Area 51 Basecamp in Hiko is canceled after a lackluster Day 1, according to event executive producer Keith Wright. Alienstock in Rachel will go on for its third day. (Renee Summerour/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Live music and EDM dominate the night on day 2 of A’Le’Innstock
After sunset bands rocked the crowds at A’Le’Innstock in Rachel, Nevada on the second night of the event.
Cat survives 15-mile commute in car bumper
A Las Vegas Review-Journal employee was surprised to learn she had a passenger during her 15.5-mile commute to the office on a September Sunday. (Tony Morales & James Schaeffer/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Shortages of OB-GYN doctors in the Las Vegas Valley - Video
Dr. Michael Gardner discusses the shortages of OB-GYN doctors that will happen and what steps are being taken to entice them to come or stay in the Las Vegas area.
Southern Nevada is in a West Nile virus hot zone - VIDEO
Southern Nevada, along with Central Arizona and Southern California, make up a “hot zone” that is reporting the highest number of mosquito-borne West Nile virus cases in the country. The Southern Nevada Health District recently reported 28 cases of West Nile virus in Clark County. (Le'Andre Fox/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Paul Browning Released from Ely State Prison - VIDEO
Paul Browning greets his mother, Betty Browning, after being released from Ely State Prison. Browning served 33 years on Nevada’s death row. (Rachel Crosby/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Mother upset over her child's cornea donation being sent overseas - Video
Lindsey LiCari, the mother of Ayden and founder of Ayden's Army of Angels, is upset that her child's corneas were sent overseas and was told that she would be able to see her son's eyes again. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Aviators splash pad lets fans stay cool
Las Vegas Ballpark’s splash pad area is the perfect place to keep cool while enjoying the game. (Cassie Soto/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Earthquakes felt in Las Vegas strained major fault, study says

The earthquakes that hammered the Southern California desert near the town of Ridgecrest last summer involved ruptures on a web of interconnected faults and increased strain on a major nearby fault that has begun to slowly move, according to a new study.