Valleyhead, Inc. v. Town of Lenox; Berkshire Superior Court
Valleyhead operated programs for girls and young women ages 12 - 22, with significant learning and emotional difficulties. Many were also the victims of physical and sexual abuse. When Valleyhead sought to use a large home in Lenox as a transitional living home for twelve young women leaving the program to go out on their own, the Town balked. Lenox had a zoning provision limiting the size of "families" in residential districts to no more than four unrelated people. The Zoning Board accepted our argument that the federal Fair Housing Act applied and required the Town to modify its zoning bylaw to permit more than four girls with disabilities to live in the home. The Board, however, limited the number of girls to seven, reasoning that there were seven bedrooms in the House. Valleyhead appealed to Superior Court. During the jury-waived trial before Judge Daniel Ford, we produced testimony that there would be two girls in some bedrooms and that doubling up was often clinically warranted. Judge Ford issued a decision adopting Valleyhead's evidence and agreeing with our arguments that the Fair Housing Act required the Town to make a reasonable accommodation to its zoning bylaw, that restricting the number of girls in the home was arbitrary, and that Valleyhead could operate the residential program for up to twelve girls.