The former operator of a sober house in Biddeford has withdrawn a federal discriminatory housing complaint filed against the city alleging it was forced to leave a downtown apartment that it used as a temporary home for men fighting substance abuse.

Jesse Harvey of Journey House LLC, which operated a sober house last year in an apartment at 45 Hill St. that could accommodate six men, had filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in March. It alleged that the city’s codes enforcement office used zoning and land use ordinances to discriminate against residents recovering from substance abuse. The complaint claimed the city violated the federal fair housing law when a code enforcement officer told Harvey’s landlord that the sober house was an illegal operation because the building did not have a sprinkler system.

Sprinkler systems are not required for older traditional apartment buildings, but the city had raised the possibility that the unit containing the sober house could qualify as a rooming house and be subject to additional safety standards.

Journey House formally withdrew the complaint June 4, which prompted HUD to terminate its investigation and close the complaint, the city announced this week.

“The city is grateful to not have to continue to put resources toward an active investigation, but we remain confident that no discrimination against Journey House occurred. We firmly believe a completed investigation would have resolved this in the city’s favor,” City Manager James Bennett said in a statement.

The sober house was open for a year in Biddeford before closing in December. Journey House Sober Living now operates in Sanford.

The seven-unit apartment building on Hill Street that is the subject of the dispute was destroyed in a fire April 2 that killed one elderly resident. The state Fire Marshal’s Office has said it may never determine a cause of the fire because of the extensive damage it caused.

Gillian Graham can be contacted at 791-6315 or at:

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Twitter: @grahamgillian

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