Tensions were high Tuesday, Sept. 3 during the Pittsylvania County Planning Commission meeting over a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center in the Cascade community.
The planning commission recommended with a 5-1 vote to recommend the board of zoning appeals (BZA) approve a special use permit for a 5.96 acre lot on Mountain Run Road for a residential addiction treatment group home. The house on the property is being used by Hope Center Ministries, Incorporated.
Commissioner Morris Stowe was the lone vote in opposition.
“Its too bad these people aren’t moving in next to y’all,” Donald Fowler, who spoke in opposition of the group home during public comment, said to the commissioners after the vote was affirmed and those in attendance began to leave.
According to Community Development Deputy Director Karen Hayes, Hope Center Ministries currently has residential centers in Halifax and Axton Virginia, Tennessee, Texas, and the United Kingdom.
Currently, the Cascade group home has a capacity for 20 women with nine currently staying at the home.
Stowe said he was concerned with the number of people going into the home.
“You’re not going to get that many people in that house,” Stowe said.
“A resident complained about the group home, which set in motion a letter on July 1 in violation of the code,” commissioner H.F. Haymore said.
Travis Byrd, District Director of Hope Center Ministries, said they immediately wanted to be in compliance after receiving a letter regarding a zoning ordinance violation.
“We sort of snuck in there,” Byrd said. He began with an apology to the people of Cascade for the way the home was purchased.
Byrd noted after the meeting that in 12 years of addiction treatment programs, the ministry has never ran into an issue where they needed to get a special use permit.
The program according to Byrd is self-sufficient and made possible by those who stay in the home.
“We are a long term recovery center… many are 30, 60, or 90 day programs but they don’t yield results. There are people in our group homes that have been struggling with addiction for 40 years,” Byrd said. “You’re not going to fix that in 30 days.”
Donald and Sue Fowler who live on Mountain Run Road spoke vehemently against the group home Tuesday.
“I can’t tell you how mortified I am that these people have already moved in next to me,” Sue Fowler said. “Once an addict, always an addict. This problem never leaves you. If you don’t believe me, Google it.”
Donald Fowler said he is concerned about security.
“They have no ankle bracelets and can come and go as they please. Can they sneak out of the window? The answer I got is yes. I don’t want someone living beside me that’s a drug addict,” Donald Fowler said.
In closing, Donald Fowler turned and addressed Byrd directly.
“If they’re so concerned with these people, why don’t you let them come live with you,” Donald Fowler said. “I think these people deserve a second chance, but somewhere else. Not in my neighborhood.”
Julie King, whose Grammy-nominated husband James King died in 2016, said she wished her husband could have had a chance at recovery.
“They’re human beings. This is a faith based organization. They deserve just as many rights as anyone else,” King said.
Stowe told Byrd he was pessimistic about the group home, and knew of a family member that was in need of addiction treatment.
Byrd offered Stowe the opportunity to have that family member enter treatment on his dime.
“The argument that an addict is always an addict… well we’ve all fallen short of the glory of God,” Byrd said.
A motion by Stowe to not recommend approval to the BZA failed, which led to an alternate motion by Dr. Charles Miller for approval.
In other business
The planning commission recommended the BZA approve a special use permit for Red Oak Hollow ATV Trails in Old Richmond Road.
Tammy Shelton Wiles presented petitions in support of the ATV trails to the commissioners.
Resident Phyllis Harris spoke in opposition of the special use permit.
Harris told the board those that use the trails are noisy and bringing in outsiders.
“I have a petition here from property owners that only oppose the sound,” Harris said.
Buford Arnn spoke in favor of the ATV trails, and said he supported J.D. Shelton.
“Anyone that knows J.D. knows he bought this land 40 years ago, and he built his home on this land 14 years ago.This isn’t a guy that’s coming from South Carolina each week to operate. He lives there. It runs around his home,” Arnn said.
Commissioner Brian Horne said he understood the concern for noise, because he lives near Virginia International Raceway.
“One of the things that didn’t come out is Mr. Shelton doesn’t just do this for profit. He also has rides for cancer and for other benefits,” Horne said.
The special use permit received unanimous support by the planning commission for the BZA.
The BZA is set to hold a meeting Tuesday, Sept. 10 at 7 p.m. in the Pittsylvania County General District Courtroom.
The planning commission’s next meeting is set for Tuesday, Oct. 1 at 7 p.m. in the Pittsylvania County General District Courtroom.
This story contains a correction. Mountain Hill Road was corrected to Mountain Run Road.