Rezoning requested for group home

Published 7:29 pm Wednesday, November 13, 2019

On Tuesday, the LaGrange City Council held a public hearing for a rezoning request of 1702 Adamson Street from R-2 to R-3, which would mean that instead of one or two families in the residence, it could be used as a dwelling for a group. The details of the proposed residents were shared during the meeting.

“They are tearing my building down at 1213 Hamilton Road,” said Jack Dallas Jr., the property owner. “The reason I need this place is because with the building that they are going to tear down, those people have nowhere to go, and they have a very hard time trying to find somewhere to live because they are sex offenders.”

Dallas said that possible locations for a residence serving those men are limited by state requirements on where sex offenders can live. 

According to O.C.G.A. 42-1-15, registered sex offenders are not allowed to live “within 1,000 feet of any child care facility, church, school or area where minors congregate if the commission of the act for which such individual is required to register occurred on or after July 1, 2008.”

No one spoke against the proposed use of the property for the men during the public hearing on Tuesday. However, the planning and zoning board voted against the zoning.

“The planning board did review the application and recommended denial, basically finding that this was akin to a spot zoning situation,” City Planner Leigh Threadgill said. “It would take one parcel out of a sea of R-2 and change the designation of that one piece to allow use that is not allowed in the other surrounding areas.”

Dallas said that he had been under the impression that the use would be allowed, and he said that without the rezoning, many of the men would be left homeless. Several of men who have lived in the home on Hamilton Road spoke in favor of the re-zoning and spoke on the impact on men who have served their time and are trying to reestablish their lives by obtaining a job and a place to live.

“Some of those people there right now have been there three to four years, [and I] haven’t had any problem with them,” Dallas said. “Most of them have leg monitors to let us know where the people are at all times. When they get out, they have to register and let the public know that they are sex offenders, and since I’ve been doing this, I haven’t had any problems.”

Council Member Nathan Gaskin asked if the home could be equipped with multiple meters for the different residents if it is approved, and Dallas said that it would be possible. He said that he hopes to build townhomes that the men can buy at some point in the future. In the meantime, Dallas said the men need a place to live once the Hamilton Road home is no longer available.

“This is a situation where there were six tenants in the in the existing residential structure, and they’re looking to add those six tenants to this residential structure by converting it from a single-family residence into either a boarding house or a six-plex, depending on how you look at it,” Threadgill said. “That’s just not a permitted use in the R-2 district.”

LaGrange Police Chief Lou Dekmar was in attendance at the meeting and spoke to the importance of having a place for the men to go. Dekmar has been heavily involved with the LaGrange-Troup County Homeless Coalition and has been supportive of programs that he believes will reduce the likelihood of repeat offences. 

“For whatever it is worth, working with community support, this is probably one of the biggest challenges,” Dekmar said. “I know that it is a challenge for the Ark [Refuge] and others to have these folks in their facilities, and many of them [messed] up at a young age, and they’ve not had the recidivism issues that are commonly associated with sex offenders, so in fact, this is an important resource for the community to have.”

Yvonne Lopez, the Chief Executive Officer of Ark Refuge Ministries, also spoke in favor of the rezoning after hearing from the men impacted by it.

“I’m so moved by what I just heard here,” Lopez said. “I’m totally in total support of [whatever] rezoning that this may need to help these people. It is so sad that when you go to prison or to go to jail and you serve your time and pay the cost that society said you have to pay that you have to suffer for the rest of your life. I know what they did was awful, but like he was saying, some of this happened years ago. They deserve a second chance like anybody.”

The rezoning will be eligible for a vote during the LaGrange City Council’s Nov. 26 meeting at 5:30 p.m. at 208 Ridley Ave.