On Tuesday, January 28, 2020, in a marathon City Commission meeting that lasted from 6:30 PM to nearly 11:00 PM, citizens, one by one, raised objections to a proposed rezoning of property at 2804 Phillips Drive. The Planning Staff and Planning Commissioners proposed to rezone this property that is currently used as a church, and zoned residential (R-3), to Community Residential Multiple-Dwelling (C-R). However, beyond and in addition to the rezoning, the property would have to be granted Special Approval to establish an Addiction Recovery Campus in new C-R district.
The addiction recovery facility would be operated by Penfield Addiction Ministries, Inc. The property is currently occupied by Raleigh White Baptist Church. The church would continue to operate through an agreement with the new occupant. The transitional housing facility would provide a more structured environment than outpatient services for the purpose of establishing or maintaining abstinence from alcohol and other drugs for up to 50 residents. These residents would be free to go and come for work and other purposes with approval of staff. Staff, however, would be limited to as little as two during weekends. Penfield operates three campuses all of which are at some distance from residential areas such as Winterwood.
The Winterwood neighborhood has been in existence since the early 1970’s. It is a stable, safe community of single-family homes on large lots. It has a viable and functioning Neighborhood Watch that keeps an eye on upkeep and general appearance of the area and its environment. Even the staff’s own analysis states that the “C-R designation is not consistent” with the future land use recommendation for the area.
State law states that, “When a proposed zoning decision relates to or will allow the location or relocation of a halfway house, drug rehabilitation center, or other facility for treatment of drug dependency, a public hearing shall be held on the proposed action. Such public hearing shall be held at least six months and not more than nine months prior to the date of final action on the zoning decision.” This provision in state law means that the decision on the rezoning cannot be made before July and not after October of this year.
Penfield Addition Ministries, Inc., is headquartered in Union Point, Georgia. It was established in 1979 and is a non-profit whose mission is to reclaim alcohol and drug addicted men and women through Christ and Christian love.
One of the outspoken residents addressing the Commission at the hearing was Ms. Marion Gaines Jones. She is a retired educator with the State Prison System. Ms. Jones has a long history of working in the community and was jailed numerous times as a young girl marching during the Albany Civil Rights Movement. At eleven, she made the journey to Washington, DC to participate in the 1963 March on Washington where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., made his famous “I Have a Dream” speech. She states that like Dr. King, “I just want to do God’s will. God gave me the courage to speak up for what is right on behalf of myself, my family and my neighbors and I will always do that. I plan to follow this important issue to its finish. I believe God is on our side and we will prevail. We will not let this go. You never see this kind of imposition in other neighborhoods in the city. Why must we always have to fight to keep our neighborhoods safe and family friendly. We care about the well-being of our families just like everybody else and are willing to fight if we must.”
Ms. Jones said that her family has been in Dougherty County since slavery, for four generations and have always stood for what is right. “I can do no less,” she stated.