Plans by Brightstone Transitions to operate an office and residence for up to eight young men ranging in age from 18 to 24 received an unexpected setback earlier this month. Despite a favorable recommendation from planning staff, the Gainesville Planning and Appeals Board voted 4-3 to recommend denying the group’s zoning petition.
However, Brightstone Transitions is still hopeful that Gainesville City Council, which has the final say, will vote differently and approve its request to zone the landmark house at 446 Green St. a home for its young men. The decision could come as early as June 6 when city council holds its next regular meeting.
Brightstone Transitions treats young men with a condition considered a mild form of autism spectrum disorder, formerly known as Asperger’s syndrome. The disorder describes individuals who are quite intelligent on one hand, but have trouble with social skills and tend to have a habit of focusing on one topic.
Individuals with this condition also appear awkward in social situations and sometimes don’t know what to say or do when someone talks to them.
Jason Cox, a Brightstone Transition official, describes the young men in the program as sweet kids who come from well-to-do homes.
“We have the sweetest and best kids,” Cox said. “They are not going to cause trouble. They’re amazing young people.”
At the planning board meeting May 9, one person spoke against the Brightstone Transitions request on the grounds that it would diminish the building’s stature as a historical landmark in the community.
However, in their analysis of the request made by Brightstone Transitions, planning staff said the intended use is consistent with the city’s comprehensive plan, which allows mixed uses in the area of 446 Green St.
“The proposed group home and office use should have minimal impacts on the adjacent and nearby historic properties based on its scale and how it will function compared to other group homes,” staff wrote in their analysis.