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Group home owners haven’t moved out yet

POSTED: February 5, 2008 5:03 a.m.

GAINESVILLE — Owners of two different group homes in Gainesville face criminal charges for not heeding orders to cease and desist operations of their residential drug and alcohol recovery programs.

Ricky Martin, owner of the Alpha House, will be arraigned in State Court on Wednesday for two counts of operating without a business license, violation of use of occupancy and violation of permitted and special uses, said Larry Baldwin, solicitor-general of Hall County.

Martin did not move out of two group homes he operates on Riverside Terrace and Hillcrest Avenue after the Gainesville City Marshal’s office gave him 60 days to leave.

Martin was ordered to cease and desist all group home operations on Riverside Terrace and Hillcrest Avenue because he did not have the special-use permits required to run group homes in the neighborhood.

Martin, who had been running the homes without the special-use permits, applied for the permits after the marshal’s office discovered the houses were operating illegally.

Martin’s application was ultimately denied by the Gainesville City Council. The council has the final say on zoning issues such as special-use requests.

Martin could not be reached for comment.

Harold Hinchman, owner of the Agora House for Men, has stayed put, too, despite cease and desist orders that the marshal’s office issued after the council denied his request for special-use permits for the homes he operates on Ivey Terrace and Northside Drive.

homes he operates on Ivey Terrace and Northside Drive.

He faces three counts of violation of use of occupancy and violation of permitted and special uses.

Hinchman said he has an arraignment in municipal court on Feb. 27, but Baldwin said Hinchman’s charges have not yet been filed in state court.

Hinchman said he is still operating his group homes on Ivey Terrace and Northside Drive, because his attorney advised him that what the city is trying to do is illegal.

Hinchman agrees with one of the reasons city officials’ denied his request for a special-use permit in the Ivey Terrace neighborhood. He agrees that there are too many group homes in his neighborhood. But the city should consider him over other group home owners because of his credentials, Hinchman said.

"I think that I need consideration with regards to the difference between what I do and what others do," Hinchman said.

"I do counseling and treatment," Hinchman said. "What they do is send these people to AA and NA and that’s it."

Both Hinchman and Martin have consulted with Stephen J. Polin, a Washington, D.C., attorney who said the city is violating the Federal Fair Housing Act by forcing Martin and Hinchman to move their group homes.

Polin would not speak on the record about the cases, except to say that Hinchman and Martin were "considering all available options and haven’t ruled out anything," including litigation.

No complaints have been filed yet, Polin said.

Calls to the city marshal’s office concerning group homes were referred to Baldwin and James Palmour, Gainesville’s city attorney.


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