Apr. 18—ALBANY — A public hearing on a proposed transition center for former prison inmates in an Albany residential neighborhood promises to bring out a strong contingent of voices in opposition.
The Albany City Commission is scheduled to hear comments on the specialized rezoning request for 525 Fifth Ave. during a Tuesday-morning work session.
While residents acknowledge the need for such a facility, they've said they fear that locating it near their homes could negatively impact property values and pose a public safety issue. They made their feelings known during a prior Albany-Dougherty Planning Commission meeting at which the rezoning request was proposed.
"Obviously, the residents have some concerns about the zoning request," Mayor Bo Dorough said. "What means more to you than your home? Not much."
The planning commission voted to recommend approval in a 5-3 vote. That shows that there are two competing issues involved, the mayor said.
"You've got to address the legitimate concerns of homeowners, but we also realize the need for transitional housing," Dorough said. "They're (Planning Commission) familiar with the zoning ordinances and what's allowed.
"On the other hand, you've got listen to the applicants and you've got to listen to those who are opposed to the center. I think that's the way the process is supposed to work."
The work session kicks off at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday, and anyone who is interested in offering comments may do so without signing up beforehand. Speakers are generally given five minutes to speak and may be asked questions by commission members if they desire additional information.
Commissioners could vote on the request later this month.
The current commission is not unfamiliar with zoning requests that prove contentious for residents who believe the proposed use could be impacted by a new use for a property in their neighborhood.
In November, commissioners denied a rezoning request by Oakview Circle LLC for 2022 N. Harding St. that would have allowed for a youth home housing up to six boys between the ages of 13 and 17 and two full-time adult workers.
After hearing comments from residents who live in the area, commissioners unanimously shot down the requested rezoning.
In January 2020, commissioners heard stiff opposition to a proposed drug rehabilitation center at the 2804 Phillips Drive Raleigh White Baptist Church from nearby residents. Penfield Addiction Ministries, a nonprofit that operates recovery facilities at several locations in Georgia and other states, requested the rezoning to operate a facility housing up to 50 people.
The applicant ultimately withdrew the request before it came to a vote by the commission.
The request up for a hearing on Tuesday looks to be one that will bring out a number of voices in opposition, Commissioner B.J. Fletcher said.
"It's going to be pretty heated," she said. "I've gotten calls, tons of calls. I've not had one call that says we would welcome it. Basically their stance is they want to see (former offenders) rehabilitated, but not in our back yard. The message I'm getting is this is a family area. There's going to be a strong pushback."
Fletcher predicted that commissioners will seriously consider the concerns of residents, as they have in previous instances.
"When you have a neighborhood that cares that much, these are strong taxpayers, strong, strong constituencies that are pushing back," she said. "People are protective of their neighborhood."