County rehab center vote invalid

·2 min read

Sep. 12—VALDOSTA — The Lowndes County Commission will have to revisit a controversial rezoning decision in light of a discovery that the original vote was invalid due to a "failure to follow zoning procedures."

On June 16, the County Commission voted to rezone property located at 2193 Howell Road from Estate Agricultural to Planned Development for a transitional care facility called Redeemed Living.

Despite the Planning Commission's 7-3 recommendation for denial, citing concerns about the impact on the subject property and surrounding area, commissioners approved the proposal in a tie-breaking 3-2 vote, with Lowndes County Commission Chairman Bill Slaughter casting the tie-breaking vote.

Redeemed Living is a nonprofit, faith-based recovery residency for men to live sober after addiction. Brent Moore, the founder, plans for occupancy to reach up to 52 residents and will develop the property in phases, with a maximum occupancy of five residents per house and one resident per cabin.

According to the Official Code of Georgia Annotated § 36-66-4(f), when such a facility is proposed, a public hearing must be held at least six months and not more than nine months prior to the date of final action on the zoning decision.

During the County Commission work session Sept. 12, J.D. Dillard, planning and zoning director, said the board's next course of action would be to officially invalidate the June 16 vote during the Sept. 13 county meeting and host the first public hearing for the request "starting the clock for six months, not to exceed nine months."

The Unified Land Development Code defines a transitional care facility as "a building or buildings in which is provided long-term but not permanent living accommodations for one or more persons who are in need of short-term or long-term housing assistance, and in which may also be provided meals and social services including physical therapy, social therapy, emotional therapy, counseling, rehabilitation, or substance abuse recovery assistance."

Planning and zoning staff also noted the "legal dictionary definition" of a halfway house is: "A transitional housing facility designed to rehabilitate people who have recently left a prison or medical-care facility, or who otherwise need help in adjusting to unsupervised living."

The public hearing portion of the vote was also in violation of ULDC and Georgia statute.

The codes provide that the support and opposition gets 10 minutes to plead their case to commissioners, as opposed to the seven allowed on the original vote.