What began as a neighborhood controversy has ballooned into a federal lawsuit pitting residents of a quiet, leafy subdivision against a small business serving the Treasure Valley’s growing elderly population.
The controversy began after the 75-year-old owner of a brick ranch house on Summerset Way, in Southwest Boise’s Five Mile Estates subdivision, died last year. His widow put their home up for sale. In October, a Boise company called CMoore Holdings bought it.
Caroline Moore, the owner of CMoore Holdings and another company that provides in-home care to frail seniors, plans to turn the property into an assisted-living home providing round-the-clock care for eight elderly residents. Some neighbors object.
Neighbors interviewed by the Statesman said they were not told of Moore’s plans until after the sale was final.
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Mike Doran, who lives across the street, said that once he found out, he wrote to the Ada County Commission “basically questioning the sense of putting a home like that, a care facility, in a residential neighborhood here.”
“We were concerned about the extra traffic that would be involved, kids going up and down on bicycles here,” Doran said. “It came as a complete surprise. ... We just don’t think it’s appropriate here.”
A ‘threatening letter’ ...
Not long after, Doran received what he described as a “threatening letter” from Moore’s attorney, Shelly Cozakos. The four-page letter describes Moore’s “mission” of “setting a new premium standard in senior residential care” and outlines what she believes to be Moore’s legal case.
“However, should you continue your efforts to try and derail Ms. Moore’s residential facility, she will be forced to file a complaint of discrimination with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (’HUD’),” Cozakos wrote. “It will then be within HUD’s discretion to investigate and refer the case on to the Department of Justice for a potential legal action against you.”
And she wrote that Moore might “be forced” to file a federal suit.
In January, Moore sued Five Mile Estates Subdivisions and 25 unnamed residents of the neighborhood. Her 12-page complaint asks a judge to declare that the covenants, conditions and restrictions governing the subdivision discriminate against the home’s prospective residents and are, therefore, illegal.
The Federal Fair Housing Act “prohibits discrimination against handicapped individuals, and any use of the CC&Rs to try and deny the elderly residents occupancy of the Property is a violation of the FFHA,” the suit says.
... and threatening phone calls
Moore did not respond to requests for comment. Cozakos said the lawsuit was filed in response to phone calls Moore received threatening her with legal action if she proceeded.
Cozakos declined to name the callers, she said, “because I don’t want to make any animus in the neighborhood. There have been threats. We don’t want to wait until after the facility opens” to protect Moore’s legal rights.
The lawsuit includes an Oct. 22 email opposing Moore’s plan that came from a group calling itself Five Mile Estates. No individual names are listed in the email. Doran said he was not part of the group that sent the email. No one responded to a Statesman request for comment sent to the email address.
“While we appreciate the efforts to create quality care for the elderly, we don’t believe our R-2 low-density neighborhood is appropriate for a memory-care facility and commercial business,” the email reads, “nor will it create quality care for those in need of assisted living.”
“Please inform your franchise to stop efforts to create a commercial business in our neighborhood,” the email continues, “and consider many of the open lots in the area that would be zoned and suited for this type of facility.”
‘We’ll all be there at some point’
Cozakos said the plans call for a residential assisted-living facility, “not memory care.” She also said the home has received all appropriate permits to remodel the brick home.
“These kinds of assisted-living facilities that are smaller are ideal for seniors,” Cozakos said.
“We’ll all be there at some point. We all have the right for access to residential care. Ms. Moore has stepped up to meet that need. ... She wants to provide an outstanding living arrangement for some of our seniors. She should be commended for that.”
Idaho is the fastest growing state in the nation, and most of the Gem State’s new residents are older than age 65. According to a July report from the state Department of Labor, 52 percent of the 116,000 people who moved to Idaho between the 2010 census and mid-2016 were senior citizens.
One question is whether there will be sufficient services for what some people call Idaho’s Silver Tsunami.
Sympathy for the work, not the site
Residents of Five Mile Estates — many of them older adults themselves — say they are sympathetic to Moore’s mission, if not her choice of location.
“My mom and dad were in assisted living,” said Jennifer Kandler, who built her home in Five Mile Estates in 1976 and has lived there since. In facilities like that, “you’ve got people coming and going, medical personnel, ambulances. Where are they going to park? ... I can see it just really being a mess.”
One long-term resident, who asked that her name not be used because she feared litigation, said she had received a Jan. 11 letter that Moore had sent to about 20 households in the subdivision.
Moore “made it sound like it was going to be utopia,” said the woman, who is 73. But “it doesn’t seem to me like a good thing. I’m not wild about more traffic. I’m not wild about having ambulances and fire trucks.”
Besides, she said, “why should someone from the outside come here and tell us how to live? I wouldn’t go into someone else’s subdivision. I’m for old people being taken care of by their families.”
In her letter, Moore acknowledged the neighborhood’s concerns. But she also spoke of the need for high-quality elder care and promised to be a good neighbor.
“We hope you can share our vision to begin something very special in our community,” she wrote. “This home can be a step towards something truly great for our families and their loved ones in need of care. A home like this, with all the special touches added, will provide an amazing quality of life.”
Nineteen days later, she sued in U.S. District Court in Boise. The plaintiffs have yet to respond to the lawsuit. No court date has been set.