“This situation has been going on since March, almost five months,” Guinn said at Monday night’s council meeting. “I have asked the mayor to mediate a settlement to this issue and still nothing.”
He said the conditional use of the property does not meet the zoning requirements for this type of facility under the definition of a “family care home.”
In March, the Planning and Zoning Board granted the conditional use of the residence at 202 Johnson Drive as a “family care home.”
Opponents alleged in March that the board violated its own city ordinances with the conditional use approval and that a drug rehabilitation center, which continues to operate out of the home, does not qualify as a “family care home.”
Zoning questions again surfaced last month after Tracy Wyatt, director for The Recovery Journey, said her group was force to leave the residence.
She said Grace Harbor Inc., took control of the home in accordance with a court order, and women assigned to The Recovery Journey by the St. Clair County Courts were ordered to remain at the residence, which is now operated by Grace Harbor.
According to the Alabama Secretary of State Web site, Grace Harbor Inc. is a corporation which “operates a residential facility for homeless woman and/or women in crisis.”
The Recovery Journey officials say their program is a residential rehabilitation center for women with drug and alcohol addictions, many of whom are ordered by the courts to serve time in a rehabilitation program instead of jail or prison.
Local businessman Curtis Capps, who owns the Johnson Drive property and is chairman of Grace Harbor, Inc., said in March that nobody was forced to leave the Johnson Drive residence, and he was only making a management change.
But Watt said Capps couldn’t make any management changes for The Recovery Journey, because he’s not a part of the corporation. He only allowed the group to use the Johnson Drive home.
Guinn said since The Recovery Journey is no longer at the residence, the conditional use granted by the city’s planning and zoning board is no longer valid.
“Those individuals are currently ordered by the court into the oversight of Grace Harber, Inc.,” Guinn said. “Grace Harbor is not licensed by the State Department of Mental Health as a provider of addiction recovery services, nor is Grace Harbor currently 501C3 qualified. Both of these are conditions that are necessary in order for a facility of this type to operate under current zoning ordinances of the City of Pell City, as well as the laws of the State of Alabama.”
Capps said there are now fewer women living at the residence.
“The same people (women) are still there,” he said Tuesday.
He said women who were ordered to The Recovery Journey by the Jefferson County court system are no longer at the residence and only about five women remain at the group home.
Capps said that’s one reason why he and the director of The Recovery Journey parted ways.
“I didn’t set this up for Jefferson County women,” Capps said. “I set this up for St. Clair County people. That’s where we started having our differences.”
He said Grace Harbor has contracted with drug rehabilitation professionals, and counselors meet with women at the group home each week. He said that meets the necessary drug abuse counseling required by the state.
Capps said Grace Harbor is also in the process of securing 501C3 non-profit status.
“We are already incorporated, and we have a board,” he said.
Guinn said under Article 306.02 of the city’s zoning regulations, “the City (not the planning commission) reserves full authority to deny any request for a conditional use, to impose conditions on the use, or to revoke approval at any time, upon a finding that the permitted conditional use will or has become unsuitable and incompatible in its location as a result of any nuisance or activity generated by the use.”
But Capps said the home is not a nuisance to anyone.
“As far as I know, we have never had any problems out there,” Capps said.
He said if the mayor and council are going to decide zoning issues, what’s the use in having a planning and zoning board.
“There’s no reason for them to exist, if everything must to go before the council,” Capps said.
Capps also said Guinn needs to focus his attention on more important city business than this group home, which is only trying to help women with addictions.
Guinn said he commends Capps for what he is trying to do and his effort to make a difference in the lives of these women, but he does not believe a drug rehabilitation center belongs in this residential community.
Guinn said Monday he wants the issue discussed at the next work session, before the council considers any possible actions.
Residents living near the group home have voiced concerns about their children living in close proximity to a drug/alcohol rehabilitation center and fear property values will decrease with a facility of this type in their community.
Residents are also concerned about who would come and go from the rehabilitation facility, and many residents have said they are upset the facility opened seven months before community residents were given proper public notice.
Contact David Atchison at email@example.com.