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Council to hold hearing on Alford Street facility

LaGRANGE – The city is looking at allowing a special use permit for a group residential treatment facility to house six female residents at 120 Alford St. as part of Next Cross Roads’ aftercare program.

Residents would live in the house following successful completion of a substance abuse treatment program.

“There is one way to look at this where it doesn’t even need a permit because it is zoned multifamily residential,” said Mayor Jim Thornton during discussion at a work session on Tuesday. “… It is essentially just six unrelated women choosing to live together in a home. There is no staff, there are no activities there. … But there is another way to look at it where because the women are all part of a program, maybe it is a part of the treatment facility, and so in sort of an abundance of caution, the staff felt like this needed to go through the treatment facility approval process.”

The home would be open exclusively to women who had finished the program and met certain qualifications set by Next Cross Roads. The residents of the home are expected to rotate over time as the women become more comfortable in their ability to re-enter the world outside of the program. Individuals with court-required time in a facility would not be eligible to live in the home until after they had completed that program, and residents of the home would pay rent just like normal tenants.

“What happens with these programs in this non-profit (Next Cross Roads) is, they’ve been in an institution, and they’ve completed that program, and it is hard sometimes to leave that very structured institutional setting and go right back into whatever your whole life was,” said Senior Planner Leigh Threadgill. “… (Next Cross Roads) tried to study what is the best way to get at the problem (with going back), and it’s placing these women in a setting that is less structured, but there are still standards, and there is still oversite, but really trying to help them embrace their new life and gain independence.

“They are going to have some training, counseling, life skills, soft skills kind of work at the Methodist Church where the office part of this non-profit will be housed. This is just the residential piece of the program,” she said.

The actual treatment would take place in a building at First United Methodist Church near downtown, and all family visits would take place at the church as part of the rules for the women living at the home. Rules regarding visitors are already being set to keep from creating any additional traffic on Alford Street, and other rules are also being set to help the women transition to full, productive lives after the program.

“There are rules,” said Threadgill. “They can’t have visitors. They have curfews. They have a residential manager that is going to make sure they’re (following the rules). It all hangs in the balance of what means assisted. … They are supporting each other through this period of their lives, (so) that they can live independently again. This is a 20-year-old, time-tested program that they’ve done in Columbus.”

The specifics of what would be allowed to occur at the residence would be outlined in the permit, including limiting treatment to the Broad Street location, but because of the broad definition of a treatment facility as “a dwelling unit which is used to provide assisted community living for persons with physical, mental, emotional, familial or social difficulties” the city’s ruling would resolve any possible gray area on the issue.

“They could in fact be the best neighbor on the block because of all the oversight and because there is someone looking after this group,” said Threadgill.

Further, the home would serve a need in the community by providing a safe, supportive place for women to go as they work to escape the vicious cycle of substance abuse and strive for a better life.

The Board of Planning and Zoning already has unanimously approved the special use permit, and council’s public hearing for the permit is planned for Feb. 14 at 5:30 p.m. at 200 Ridley Ave.

The city also approved the following board and agencies appointments at its regular meeting: Skip Smith for The Construction Board of Adjustment and Appeals; Meg Kelsey for the LaGrange Development Authority; Jim Thornton, Tom Gore, Mark Mitchell, LeGree McCamey, Willie Edmondson, Norma Tucker, Nick Woodson and Meg Kelsey to the LaGrange Governmental Finance Corporation; Luther Jones to the LaGrange Troup County Memorial Park Board; James Baker for Municipal Court Judge; Nick Woodson for the Records Committee; Jim Thornton, LeGree McCamey, Willie Edmondson, Tom Gore, Mark Mitchell, Norma Tucker and Nick Woodson to the Solid Waste Management Authority; Norma Tucker for the Troup County FEMA Board; Jeff Anderson to the Troup County Board of Elections to succeed Alonzo Ransom; and Mark Mitchell to the appointment of Mayor Pro-Tem.

The city council plans to meet again on Jan. 24 at 5:30 p.m. at 200 Ridley Ave.

Reach Alicia B. Hill at alicia.hill@lagrangenews.com or at 706-884-7311, Ext. 2154.