Halfway house plan nixed after opposition

Published 11:00 pm Thursday, October 20, 2011

Seeking “peace, not conflict,” the group seeking to establish a halfway house on Montgomery Street withdrew its request for a zoning variance in response to community opposition on Thursday.

Dr. Mallone Chandler had sought a variance from the Troy Board of Adjustments to allow a halfway house at 209 Montgomery Street. Chandler represents Open Arms Ministry, an outreach of Riverview Baptist Church that provides addiction recovery services and support.

“I’m here today to bring peace, not conflict,” Chandler said to the crowd of more than 50 people. “This is an opportunity for us to share our vision of what the Lord would have us do.”

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And, he said, growing the two-year-old ministry to include a halfway house would require community support. “The key word here today is ‘possibility’ not ‘probability.’ Before you begin any major endeavor, you have to see where you stand with the people surrounding you … and the last thing we want to do is try and shove something over on the people and hide behind the banner of the church.”

More than six active members of the ministry were on hand for the meeting, expressing their support of the program and the need for a halfway house and the services it would provide to recovering addicts.

George Towns, who works with a similar project in Anniston and would oversee the halfway house in Troy, also spoke in support of the program, which he said would include only men who sought to participate. “We want to blend in with the community and be as transparent as we can,” he said.

Tommy Horn spoke on behalf of the residents of Montgomery Street. “There are two issues here,” he said. “We are all behind the idea of a halfway house, but we’re concerned about property values and the character of the neighborhood … We are behind your ministry, we just need to get it in the right location.”

More than 120 residents of Montgomery Street, which is zoned R2, signed a petition in opposition to the variance. Wandra Moulty, the Troy city councilwoman whose district includes the area, also expressed concerns about issuing a variance. “Not only will the variance open it to the halfway house, it will open it everybody to come in,” she said.

Many spoke in support of the halfway house ministry, but echoing concerns about its location. “I’m not against a halfway house,” said Jennifer Barker. “I’m just not for it being on the street where we live.”

After listening to the community’s concerns, Chandler asked the board of adjustments to withdraw the zoning variance. “The community has spoken and with that in mind, we’d like to ask to withdraw our request,” he said. “We’re not giving up, we’ll just keep looking for the right place.”

Jack Norman, chairman of the board, said after the meeting he was pleased with the constructive and positive dialog during the meeting.

In other business, the board of adjustments denied a request from Joe Montgomery of Oasis Foundation of America to put a portable structure to be used as a digital sign and emergency response module near the north entrance to Southland Village Shopping Center on U.S. 231. “The Department of Transportation defines this type of unit as a sign first, and we followed those guidelines,” board member Perry Green said after the meeting. “Those guidelines said the sign needs to be 17 feet from the right of way, and he was seeking a 16-foot variance on it.”

This was Montgomery’s second attempt to secure a variance for a digital sign. The sign would be constructed on the outsides of a module, which is to hold emergency response supplies that could be easily accessible to first responders. The first request was denied, as well.

The board of approved a variance for an addition to an existing dwelling at 160 Norman Road.