Sober house requests higher occupancy in The Wedge

New Spirit Homes is seeking to increase the occupancy from six to 20 people at Merlin’s House Sober Living Home at 1200-02 W. 28th St.

The 2.5-story side-by-side duplex houses people recovering from alcoholism or drug addiction who have completed in-patient treatment. There are 10 bedrooms in the 3,800-square-foot structure, with paved parking for three cars in back.

City staff approved the request to expand the occupancy in May, and a neighbor filed an appeal. The matter goes before the city’s Zoning Board of Adjustment on Thursday, July 28.

City staff recommended denying the appeal, citing the federal Fair Housing Act, which requires reasonable accommodation for people with disabilities seeking fair and equal access to housing. As a condition of the sober house’s expansion, city staff said the home exterior and yard should be kept in excellent condition.

In filing the appeal, a neighbor said the city has not allowed other nearby duplexes to double or triple in density, marking a fundamental change to the neighborhood. He said the property has been an eyesore on the block for many decades.

Alcohol use is forbidden at sober houses, according to the city.

In the application, New Spirit Homes said less than 10 percent of residents typically have cars.

Property owner Jon Bartelt said he doesn’t want to draw attention to the house.

“The guys just want to live and work and be sober,” he said. “There is a strong need for it. … There are people in recovery that live everywhere. This is just a place where they can choose to live in early recovery.”