Much discussion was had during Monday’s Upson County Planning Commission meeting over a family personal care home, located at 125 Rocky Branch Road, which has been functioning for the last six months without going through the proper zoning protocol for the county. Representatives from Georgia Mentor, a state contracted program which assists the tenants in the home, stated they had followed all of the state guidelines and therefore did not think there was any issue. However, Planning and Zoning Director Doug Currier noted a letter had been sent to Georgia Mentor (prior to him taking office) stating they were in the correct zoning district, but there was a special zoning process that needed to be followed. After deliberation, the commission approved the special exception for the facility stating they had no issue with it, based on the fact that there have been no complaints regarding the property.
Lori Campbell, State Director for Georgia Mentor, explained that the organization is contracted through the state to assist developmentally disabled adults with transition from state hospitals into the community. They help locate the individuals in the community of their choice and offer support services through safety checks, personal behavior support, transportation and nursing.
Dan Lee, Attorney for Georgia Mentor, told the commission that there is some discrepancy in what the state calls things and what the county does. The home that is located in Upson County is considered to be a “community living arrangement,” not a personal care home and therefore has a different set of requirements to be met before it can be licensed and tenants can move in. All that is required by the state is a letter from the Fire Marshall stating the house fits all the fire code requirements and the house must be located in a residential area. Lee noted that they received both of those documents from the Building and Zoning Department. He also acknowledged that is why they took the position that the home was not a personal care home and therefore not in need of following the special zoning process.
“The way we looked at it was, this is a residential home for three individuals who happen to have developmental disabilities,” said Lee.
Currier told the commission that his feelings were, even if you disagreed with the zoning process, there should have been better communication between the two bodies. Also, he feels there needs to be better cooperation between the state level and county level when it comes to zoning because currently there is no official county section check off on the state’s list of requirements. He also stated that there are some flaws with the county’s ordinance because there are many types of homes that could fit the requirements, but are not called community living arrangements or personal care homes. He has plans to work on updating the language.
After hearing the presentation from the Georgia Mentor representatives, the commission unanimously decided to grant the special exception zoning request. However, they did ask for a verbal agreement from Campbell that if there were to be any future homes with the Georgia Mentor program located in Upson County that the proper protocol be followed. Campbell agreed that would be done.