20210318-LOC-city hall filer

Keene City Hall

The Keene City Council voted Thursday to direct city staff to start drafting an ordinance that would establish a licensing process for congregate living facilities and social service providers.

The ordinance would also create a licensing board that would consider applications and review all city licenses on a yearly basis. Thursday’s unanimous vote follows a unanimous recommendation by the council’s Planning, Licenses and Development Committee last week.

City Planner Tara Kessler explained during the March 24 committee meeting that the proposal for the ordinance grew out of conversations at joint planning board and PLD committee meetings about a new development code in the works. Originally, the licenses were being considered as part of the new code, which the joint committee has been discussing, but members decided to introduce the idea separately, Kessler said.

The ordinance would amend Chapter 46 of the city code to require licenses for drug treatment clinics and residential drug treatment centers, fraternity and sorority houses, large group homes, small group homes, group resource centers, homeless shelters, lodging houses (which already require a license) and residential care facilities.

Those organizations would first need to get a conditional use permit from the Keene Planning Board before appearing before the licensing board. Organizations that are already operating would have one year to get a license, but new ones would have to get the license before they could begin operating.

The proposed licensing board would consist of five people and would have the ability to approve, suspend or revoke all licenses issued by the city. It would use a fixed set of criteria in decisions, including with regard to violations by license holders.

Mia Summerson can be reached at 352-1234, extension 1435, or msummerson@keenesentinel.com. Follow her on Twitter