Gainesville City Council on Tuesday denied a special use request for a sober living home for men after neighborhood residents raised concerns about safety.
The proposed men’s home on Cleveland Street, located behind the Super 8 motel and J&J Foods on Jesse Jewell Parkway, was struck down in a unanimous vote.
Councilman Sam Couvillon was not present.
Councilman Zack Thompson said the sober facility was a “worthy and noble cause,” but that he felt compelled by the opposition of neighborhood residents to vote it down.
There are just five registered group homes for men in Gainesville, according to planning officials, and the need for sober living facilities has grown as drug courts become a more widely used alternative to incarceration.
Under the proposed plan, a 10-unit complex known as the Cleveland Street Apartments would be converted to a 12-month residential recovery facility.
Proponents said the Synergy Recovery Center would give up to 36 men referred by the criminal justice system a “second chance.”
About half of residents would be referrals and the other half self-admissions.
Group home residents would be assigned daily chores, given cleaning duties and be required to cook their own meals.
In addition, they would have to meet work requirements and pay small rents.
A house manager and staff would be on site at all times to monitor firm curfews and provide drug screenings randomly two to three times per week.
Gainesville resident Andy Duff said substance abuse caused him to lose his job, his home and “all sense of reality.”
But he’s now been sober for several years and along the way became an ordained minister and small business owner.
“I believe in these guys,” he said about the men who would call the proposed facility their new home.
Stuart Smith of Buford said the recovery center should not be confused with a detoxification program. All residents will have already achieved sobriety by the time they move into the proposed facility.
Smith said large investments have already been made in the complex to upgrade appliances, fix plumbing leaks and install security systems, among other things.
The site of the proposed facility is located in a largely Latino neighborhood where children play along a dead-end street, according to residents who gave public comment.
An estimated 50 children live on the block adjacent to The Salvation Army homeless shelter and a bodega.
Dozens of families attended the council meeting to express their opposition, citing lost property values and increased pedestrian and vehicle traffic as reasons why the sober home was a good idea in the wrong place.
Frank Medina, pastor of Restoration Community Church in Gainesville, said he had worked with families in the neighborhood over the past two months to address their concerns.
And though representatives of the recovery center said no sex offenders or violent felons would be living at the sober home, Medina said it’s just too risky a proposition for the family-oriented street.