A group of local parents of intellectually disabled children celebrated Monday after passing a hurdle in their effort to provide a living situation for their children as they enter adulthood or leave home.
“Every step closer we get, this gets more exciting,” said Marie Cochran, a founding board member of 43 North Inc., a nonprofit organization that aims to build a new home for the intellectually disabled.
The Hailey Planning and Zoning Commission approved a request Monday to change city code to expand the definition of a residential care facility to include the words “individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities” and “group home.”
Previously, the definition referred primarily to facilities for “elderly or invalid individuals” at nursing homes or similar facilities.
Cochran said the text changes would make it “absolutely clear” that the organization’s plans would comply with zoning regulations.
“There has never been anything here like what we are trying to do,” she said.
P&Z Chairwoman Janet Fugate said 43 North’s effort to ensure city code compliance prior to a formal development application was “forward thinking.”
“It is refreshing to see the cart before the horse,” Fugate said.
The City Council will vote on final approval of the amendment on May 13 following a public hearing.
Cochran and her husband, Sam Cochran, presented the request at a P&Z meeting Monday, sitting alongside their 17-year-old daughter, Emma Cochran, who is intellectually disabled and has been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder.
Marie Cochran said an intellectual disability can refer to people with Down syndrome, autism or other diagnoses.
“The term used to be mentally retarded but people don’t say that anymore,” Cochran said. “They have changed the term for what Emma has three times in my lifetime.”
Cochran said 43 North (named for the latitude of the Wood River Valley) has secured earnest money to purchase a one-acre, $275,000 lot at Block 2 of Quigley Farm, an area planned for nonprofit organizations.
The residential care facility on the east side of Hailey would house up to 14 people, with one or two residential supervisors.
Cochran said she expects the sale to be completed in July, following installation of infrastructure improvements at Quigley Farm.
“There will be plenty of room for everybody to play and relax and enjoy our beautiful surroundings,” she said.
Private donations from friends and family have made the 43 North dream possible, but there is still a long way to go. Cochran said there are no formal fundraising plans for a building expected to cost from $4 million to $5 million.
“We are confident that this community will help support a project like this,” she said.
Cochran said board members researched comparable facilities in northern California, Arizona and Florida to get ideas on how to operate a facility in the Wood River Valley.
“We wouldn’t exclude a resident from elsewhere if we could accommodate them,” she said.
Cochran said that without a facility like the one planned by 43 North, people like her daughter Emma would have no local residential options when they grow up, other than living at home or moving to a care facility outside the community.
“As parents, we may not outlive them, so we need to find a secure place for them in this community,” she said.