CHATHAM — The Pittsylvania County Board of Zoning Appeals voted 6-1 Tuesday night to approve a special use permit for the Hope Center — a women’s addiction recovery facility in Cascade.
Fifty people signed up to speak at a public hearing.
People shared passionate stories about the impact that Hope Center Ministries have made in their life. Many from the Axton men’s center talked about their journey to getting clean, while others from Compassion Church — a partner with the Hope Center in Cascade — explained about the women who are in the women’s center now.
Chairman Kenneth Talbott repeatedly asked people to be short and provide facts only, but the hearing carried on until 11 p.m.
“We need to hear about the operation of the facility, it’s impact on adjoining property... you don’t need to convince us of the value of the Hope Center,” he said.
That didn’t stop about 30 people from doing exactly that.
The primary opposition voiced was by neighbors, who primarily expressed concern about their safety and the devaluation of their homes.
“We just don’t want those types of people in our family neighborhood,” said Sue Fowler.
Her husband, Don Fowler, agreed with his wife that the mission of the center is productive, but he doesn’t want it in his neighborhood.
“People need a second chance, but not in my neighborhood,” he said. “The main goal of the United States government is to protect its citizens... it’s up to y’all to protect us.”
Jeff Lynch, the pastor of Compassion Church, said testimonies shared indicated that the fears are unfounded.
“Those fears are simply speculative. What is real, is hope,” he said.
Dwayne Adam, another nearby neighbor, said the traffic coming in will present a safety issue and the decrease in value to his home.
“It’s not speculative: it’s a decrease in value,” he said.
Tiffany Adams, his wife, said she is concerned about the distance from the closest law enforcement and hospitals.
“I have grave concerns about the response time of law enforcement in the event of a crisis,” she said.
Henry County Sheriff Lane Perry has worked closely with the Axton Hope Center for men, said that he hasn’t seen any violence related to the house. He thinks that these programs will help with overcrowding in Pittsylvania County and Henry County jails.
“These are people who want to change their lives,” he said.
The facility has been operational since May, but neighbor’s complaints led to the need for the facility to obtain a special use permit.
Travis Byrd, the regional director of Hope Center Ministries, described the ministry with four primary adjectives: Christ-centered, live-in, long-term and work therapy. With that, he said they have achieved a 58% success rate with their 12 facilities across the country.
“We want to be in compliance with whatever is required, and we’ve tried to do that,” Byrd said.
They initially didn’t obtain a permit, Byrd said, because county administration told them it was remote enough that they wouldn’t need to worry about it.
“We have a private home that is basically, by design, out of sight and out of mind,” Byrd said.