Shelter prospect uneases neighbors

Published 12:00 am Thursday, April 21, 2016

By Tyler H. Jones

LaGRANGE — A proposal to use a house on Teaver Road as a homeless veterans’ shelter is drawing ire from nearby residents who voiced their concerns Tuesday at a County Commission meeting.

Calvin and Beverly Smith of Fort Mitchell, Alabama, own the home at 245 Teaver Road and applied for a special-use permit March 9 to operate a half-way house for homeless veterans. The home, which the Smiths have owned for 20 years and use as a rental, is zoned as single-family residential and a permit would be required to run the shelter.

County staff on April 6 recommended denying the permit due to concerns about the screening process for veterans, the length of stay and the level of care that would be provided.

Jay Anderson, the county’s building official, noted in his report to county commissioners his office received two telephone calls in opposition and two inquiries

Calvin Smith, addressing commissioners at a public hearing Tuesday, said he and his wife want to convert the home into a shelter because he feels compelled to take care of veterans who are struggling.

“The thing about a lot of veterans is they want somewhere nice and quiet so they can relax,” Calvin Smith said. “Certain noises, we don’t like to hear. I think Teaver Road would be perfect.”

Brenda Bagley of Oak Drive, which intersects with Teaver Road near the home, also addressed commissioners and brought with her a petition of 75 signatures against the shelter.

“Let me first say that I am definitely not against the homeless or veterans,” Bagley said. “My cousin gave his life for that flag standing right behind you (the commissioners). My husband fought in the military and my son did five tours in Afghanistan. … I am definitely 100 percent for the military, just not in rural Troup County next to a church.”

Bagley said represented a group that is concerned the shelter could have an adverse affect on the neighborhood. The home owned by the Smiths is one lot away from Teaver Road Baptist Church, and the playground can be seen from the home’s yard.

“There are young children playing and hollering outside (the church),” she said. “That’s not conducive to someone who may have PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). Our first concern is our children in our community.”

Commissioner Tripp Foster of District 3 addressed Smith and suggested he and his wife find another location for the shelter.

“I’m for helping veterans,” said Foster. “But what I am concerned about is having a homeless veterans’ shelter in that residential neighborhood. … The solution I can offer to the table is to put it in a more commercial environment, and get community support. I’d rally behind that.”

County commissioners are slated to vote on the permit at their regularly scheduled 9 a.m. meeting May 3 at the Troup County Government Center, 100 Ridley Ave.

Tyler H. Jones is a reporter with LaGrange Daily News. He may be reached at 706-884-7311, ext. 2155.