A local group is looking at other locations to open a new addiction group home for women in Pittsylvania County after a special use permit for their first proposal was denied.
Hope Center Ministries applied for a special use permit after the county’s board of supervisors passed an amendment to the zoning ordinance allowing residential addiction treatment group homes in residential and agricultural properties. That ordinance change came in response to their desire to open a facility.
The county’s planning commission, which was already familiar with the proposal and cited their support for the project at previous meetings, recommended that the board of zoning appeals deny the request in a 4-2 vote in early January. Several county residents opposed placing a group home in the proposed location during the public hearing, including one person who owned land neighboring the property.
One of the residents also brought a petition of 102 signatures opposing the request, according to the Jan. 3 planning commission meeting minutes. They cited concerns about safety and property values should the facility be placed in a neighborhood.
The board of zoning appeals followed the planning commission’s recommendation in its meeting on Jan. 8 after the applicant didn’t appear, said Pittsylvania County Community Development Deputy Director Karen Hayes.
In response to the denial, Hope Center Ministries Admissions Director Gary Robertson said the group understands it’s “just part of the process.”
“We are currently looking at several possible locations in Pittsylvania County and want to get the Hope Center open as soon as possible,” he said on Wednesday.
Planner H.F. Haymore Jr. made the motion to recommend denying the request after listening to the opposition. The group home would have been located in the Westover District, which he represents. The location has a Danville postal address of 1715 Walnut St.
His motion was seconded by Timothy Dudley, the vice chairman of the commission and the Staunton River District representative. Haymore and Dudley were joined by planners Richard Motley of the Chatham-Blairs District and Brian Horne of the Dan River District in their vote.
Dudley said he still supports Hope Center Ministries’ effort to open a treatment home, but felt the commission had a responsibility to listen to the opposition from the neighborhood.
“I think it’s a really, really good program that they’ve got going on, and I think placing it in the correct place is key,” said Dudley on Wednesday.
He said the group will have to find a place where there isn’t “too much opposition,” so that it can be a “win-win for everybody.”
“It’s an ache there also because there’s so much of a drug problem in the county, and it’s not going to get any better until there’s some help out there,” said Dudley.
Pittsylvania County supervisor and planner Charles Miller was one of the two people to vote against Dudley’s motion to deny the request. He was joined by planner Janet Mease, who represents the Callands-Gretna District.
Joe Davis and Morris Stowe were absent during the Jan. 3 meeting.
Miller said he was definitely in favor of allowing the addiction treatment group home to go forward, stating there was “absolutely a need.”
“Not only for that one but more besides,” he added.
He said he understood that as representatives of the public, it is each planner’s responsibility to represent “the sentiments of the people” that each one represents.
“But sometimes maybe we have to have a bit of departure for the greater good I would think,” said Miller.
Both Dudley and Miller spoke highly of Robertson and said they believe the group will keep trying until it succeeds.
When Hope Center Ministries finds another location, it will have to submit another application to request a special use permit.