Council approves special use permit

Published 9:27 pm Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

The LaGrange City Council voted to approve a special-use permit Tuesday for a group treatment facility on Adamson Street even though the LaGrange Board of Planning and Zoning Appeals recommended denying it about a month ago.

Jack Dallas of LaGrange applied for a special-use permit to operate a group treatment facility at 1702 Adamson Street with the intent to help recently released inmates transition back into society, according to his application to the city.

The motion to approve the special-use permit was approved by a 4-2 vote, with councilmen W.T. Edmondson, Nathan Gaskin, Tom Gore and LeGree McCamey voting in favor. This motion came after Councilman Jim Arrington made a motion to deny the special-use permit. Councilman Mark Mitchell was the only other councilman to vote in favor of the denial.

There was not any discussion about the permit other than the voting process.

Earlier in the day at the council’s work session, Leigh Threadgill, the city’s strategic initiatives manager, said the city’s regulations and zoning ordinances are specific about how a group treatment facility must be set up, adding that Dallas didn’t seem interested in providing the treatment part of the equation.

“It’s intended for the wraparound services and oversight,” she said at the work session. “The men, or the population, living there should be living as a single housekeeping unit, essentially like a family life environment. That’s really not the interest that the applicant has.”

According to Dallas’s application, the men impacted by this housing shift have been living in a group home on Hamilton Road, which is about to be affected by the Hamilton Road widening project, and he’s looking for a place to relocate them.

Threadgill said the idea was to create individual units for the residents, but the treatment portion of the group treatment facility didn’t seem to be there.

“He was willing to do the treatment facility, but he really doesn’t offer the treatment part, so it’s really just housing,” she said. “I don’t think that the group treatment facility special use permit is supposed to be a way to circumvent zoning.”

During the work session, Mayor Jim Thornton said by granting the special-use permit, Dallas will have two years to apply and become accredited by the state to run a group treatment facility. According to city code, if the licenses required by the state are revoked or terminated, the special-use permit becomes invalid. The permit is also invalid if the facility isn’t operated for a continuous period of six months, according to city code.

“If a group treatment facility is not meeting standards, is getting complaints from neighbors, there is a cancellation process,” Thornton said. “We have never done that, but there is a cancellation process built into the code.”

The code says any special permit issued by the council can be suspended or revoked for cause after the mayor and council have held a hearing.

Threadgill said another part of Dallas’s plan was to renovate the structure’s interior and add multiple restrooms, which would give it the feel of a boarding house or six-plex and wouldn’t be allowed without a special-use permit based on the way the structure is zoned. At this point, none of that work has taken place, as Threadgill said Dallas is waiting to see the zoning process play out.

“The word treatment implies that there’s some kind of treatment happening,” Threadgill said. “But there’s something that is more involved than just providing housing, which it seems to me that, from all I can get it from the applicant, this is just a place for these guys to go live, which is fine. But that’s not a group treatment facility.”

During the work session, Gaskin recently asked the council to drive in the area, and they would see it needs work.

“Any improvement is an improvement at this point,” he said.