Group-home operator ends legal fight

Morningside Recovery this week dropped its fight against a court ruling that barred it from operating group homes for recovering addicts in Newport Beach.

The decision closes the book on years of legal sparring over whether Morningside could operate the sober-living facilities in the city's residential neighborhoods.

Morningside requested that an appeals court judge dismiss the case Monday, but the organization's attorney, Ron Talmo, declined to answer questions about the appeal or why it was dropped.

"We're moving on with business," he said.

In August, an Orange County Superior Court judge ruled that Morningside's seven sober-living homes on Lido Isle and in other Newport Beach neighborhoods violated the city's municipal code.

Newport Beach residents had long complained about group homes bringing unwanted density and a transient population.

Morningside argued that its sober-living homes operate essentially the same as traditional households, but Judge Sheila Fell rejected that idea.

"The only connection between the clients in each house is the fact that they receive treatment from Morningside — they are not friends or family," Fell wrote.

She ruled that Morningside's facilities were banned under Newport's zoning against "residential care facilities" in neighborhoods.

Fell set a November 2013 deadline for Morningside to move all of its homes out of Newport, something Morningside said it planned to do anyway.

The ruling also ordered Morningside to pay Newport Beach about $38,000 to cover the city's legal fees and prohibited Morningside from opening more care facilities in the city's residential areas.

"It was a very comprehensive order," Newport City Atty. Aaron Harp said.

Morningside appealed Fell's decision in November, but after multiple requests for more time to file an opening brief, asked that the case to be dismissed.

The group-home operator also complied with Fell's order to leave: All of Morningside's residential facilities have moved out of Newport Beach, Harp said.

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