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Proposed ordinance change draws contention
by Mary Cosgrove
July 10, 2012 01:32 PM | 1181 views | 0 0 comments | 19 19 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A particular zoning ordinance became a hotly debated issue at a late June town hall meeting when county residents were allowed to share their opinions on personal care homes.

Henry County Board of Commissioners put a moratorium on issuing licenses and permits for personal care homes earlier in the year, giving planning and zoning staff the directive to clarify the parameters of what can and cannot be allowed within residential areas of unincorporated Henry County.

Planning and Zoning Director Cheri Hobson-Matthews said the ordinance, as it is currently written, allows for a personal care homes in residential areas that can house up to four residents.

The proposed recommendations planning staff had prepared prior to the town hall meeting had four major changes, she said. The first is that any applicant for a personal care home would have to also apply for conditional use permit; any person wanting to operate a personal care must reside at the property; the new ordinance contains a distance requirement of 1,000 feet from another personal care home; and finally, the home can house up to six residents.

The lines were quickly drawn between the 100-plus county residents who attended the town hall meeting. On one side of the room sat residents urging the county not to draw such harsh restrictions for those wanting to operate personal care homes. Senior citizens who need assisted living, as well as those who are mentally challenged, rely on having a facility where they can be independent, yet have the security of 24-hour monitoring, was the overwhelming argument for those in favor of personal care homes in residential areas.

On the other side of the coin, subdivision residents were arguing whether homeowner’s association covenants that prohibit any businesses within neighborhoods would hold up against the county ordinance.

Matthews said the proposed ordinance would require the potential personal care home operator to get written consent from the homeowner’s association, or in the absence of an association, lawyer’s consent, as part of the application process.

Jeff Boyd, of Stockbridge, said he feels it was his pursuit in opening a personal care home to take care of his aging parents was the genesis for the debate.

“For that I apologize to all [those] who are going to be adversely affect by the unnecessary, onerous and unconstitutional changes in the county ordinance,” he said. He said his neighborhood has nine covenants, none of which opening a personal care home would violate.

“Why are people trying to deny the elderly or people with special needs?” he said.

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