Fillmore St. triplex won’t be rented to rehab clients


The triplex in the 2200 block of Fillmore St. NE might still have renters in the near future, but they likely won’t be placed there by a Brooklyn Park rehabilitation clinic anymore.

JoAnn Velde, director of Minneapolis housing inspections, said that once city inspectors got into the house, they decided that the clinic was operating a community residential facility there. “That’s an illegal use. They can’t operate like that in this zoning. They are providing a service, they have paid staff living there.”

Velde said inspectors placarded the house (stuck orange signs on the outside of it) saying the building was out of zoning compliance. The city is only dealing with the property owner, she added, not the rehabilitation clinic, but a community residential facility needs a state license and must be located in a properly-zoned part of the city.

In February, two neighbors complained to the city, saying they’d seen a truck pull up at the triplex and people unloading 22 beds, which they carried into the house.

At first, city inspectors thought the building owners were allowing more people to live there than the zoning allowed.

“The property owner can rent to nine tenants,” Velde added.

New Guidance co-owner Laura Cavanaugh, interviewed in March, said they were renting the triplex to house some of their clients who needed sober housing. During the day, residents attend New Guidance’s 60-hour or 80-hour treatment program in Brooklyn Park. At night, they’d go back to Fillmore Street for temporary housing. Cavanaugh said New Guidance is licensed for chemical dependency outpatient treatment. She said only nine clients were living at the triplex.

People are referred to the clinic by past clients, private assessors, the county or the courts, she said. New Guidance is a for-profit organization in its fourth year of operation.

According to Hennepin County records, the house on Fillmore belongs to John Surma. But Surma is deceased; a Surma family employee, Steve Manuel, said the house is owned by Surma’s estate.

Velde said she was aware of the neighbors’ complaints. “But it’s hearsay. We have to get into the building and gather evidence. We had to decide if there were more than nine tenants, if they are in compliance with the number of people allowed. We had to determine what relationship they had with each other.”

When city officials started looking into the matter, she added, they discovered the property didn’t have a rental license, but the building owners were soon able to get one.

She said inspectors found only nine people living there, although judging from the number of reported beds, “22 [people] may have been their intention.”

Rehabilitation facilities “are a good thing, we need them,” Velde said, “but they need to be properly licensed and located in the right area. The program itself is probably a good program.”

Neighbor Jim Madson said he and other neighbors have counted at least 16 people living in the house. Two vans come each day for the residents, he added, one in the morning and one in the evening. Each time, about eight people get into the van. “That doesn’t include the staff members,” he added. “We know they were overcrowding the place. My question was, if the county is paying New Guidance per day, per resident, can’t [somebody from] the county look at their records and say, for instance, ‘On May 5 we paid you for 15 people?’ Nobody can answer my question.”

Even though the building has been placarded, Madson said, he’s still skeptical that the tenants will actually move out. “I’m not clear on the policies for appeal.”

Cavanaugh did not return Northeaster phone calls last week.

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