Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

County's Definiton of `a Family' to Face Closer Look Zoning Complexities May Force Revision

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

County's Definiton of `a Family' to Face Closer Look Zoning Complexities May Force Revision

Article excerpt

The word "family" no longer necessarily evokes an image from "Leave It to Beaver," with a father, mother and siblings under one roof.

Because people are living together in different configurations, the definition of a family is undergoing changes in such governmental documents as zoning regulations.

Such changes may soon be debated by the St. Charles County Council. Judging from the experience of other communities, a change in the definition of a family is certain to spark controversy.

More than two months ago, the staff of the county Planning Department proposed a new definition of family for the county zoning order. Steve Lauer, the county planning director, said his staff began thinking about redefining the word family as the result of complaints from people saying the code was being violated. He acknowledged that many complaints came from people disgruntled at the lifestyle of a neighbor.

The county's present zoning order defines a family as "one or more persons who are related by blood, marriage or adoption, including household employees, living together and occupying a single housekeeping unit with single kitchen facilities."

A Nov. 9 report written by the planning staff pointed out that under this definition, "any individuals who share a dwelling and are not related by one of the three tests" - blood, marriage or adoption - "are in violation of the zoning order."

The staff report added, "The difficulty of enforcing such a requirement is obvious."

The staff also questioned the stringency of the test and concluded, "There appears to be no legitimate, reasonable purpose to be served by such a requirement."

Further, the staff said it was questionable whether courts would uphold a relationship requirement.

The staff came up with a new definition. It kept the earlier wording that an individual or two or more people related by blood, marriage or adoption constituted a family. But it added this:

"A group of not more than three persons who are not related by blood, marriage or adoption living together by joint agreement and occupying a single housekeeping unit."

Under this proposed definition, any of these situations could constitute a family:

An individual who lives alone.

Any number of individuals who are related by blood, marriage or adoption.

As many as three individuals who are not related by any of the three specified relationships. …

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