Proposed Mableton homeless center gets denial recommendation

May 8, 2019

MARIETTA — Neighbors opposing a proposed homeless development center and shelter in Mableton scored a favorable decision Tuesday from the Cobb Planning Commission, which recommended denial of the project by a split vote.

Mableton-based Family Life Restoration Center is seeking to rezone a 1.6-acre site at 6328 Mableton Parkway, south of Mableton Parkway’s intersection with Factory Shoals Road, to allow for a collaborative program with Georgia Works to help “chronically homeless men” return to the workforce. The rezoning request was first heard last month but tabled by the Planning Commission over unanswered questions over the project, such as security measures to keep neighbors safe.

“What we are proposing is a jobs training program so that we can remove them from their homeless state and put them back with their family,” said attorney Kevin Moore, who is representing Family Life Restoration Center.

Georgia Works’ goal, according to its website, is to help “chronically homeless men” by providing a full-time job and permanent housing for each participant. “Men who enter the program are typically dependent on drugs and handouts; when they graduate, the goal is to never be dependent again,” according to the site. If approved, the shelter would be Georgia Works’ first within Cobb County.

But Cheryl Goliday, a resident of Walden Crossing, which is across from the proposed shelter, said she considered it a homeless shelter since the organization’s rezoning request identified it as such. She added her subdivision’s entrance was an estimated 500 to 700 feet away from the site in question.

“We are a community where children are seen walking by themselves, people walking their dogs at all hours. We don’t want that disrupted for any reason,” Goliday said. “I know the need (for this program) is there, but everything around us is residential. … Will this be part of what our neighbors in Smyrna should expect, or Acworth, or Kennesaw, or Powder Springs, Austell?”

Goliday also argued that establishment of the shelter would drop surrounding residential property values.

That was one argument echoed by Planning Commissioner Fred Beloin. He also cited a community member’s comparison of the proposed program to Kennesaw-based Devereux Advanced Behavioral Health Georgia, which treats youth who are suffering from emotional and/or behavioral challenges.

“Many of these facilities that are run by Devereux have had escapees commit violent crimes against people who live nearby,” Beloin said, citing separate incidents in Pennsylvania where a man was shot and killed by an escapee and another where a woman had been locked in a closet without food or water for four days.

“What assurances can you give us that nobody will leave this facility in the middle of the night and commit a violent crime against one of these immediate neighbors?” Beloin asked Moore.

Responded the attorney, “There is no assurance, any more than somebody who leaves this building right now goes and commits a violent crime that we’re aware of, but what there is are assurances that type of history won’t be allowed in this program.”

Moore added that he believed the comparison that had been made to Devereux Georgia had been a matter of location, which is adjacent to multiple subdivisions.

But a majority of the Planning Commission sided with Beloin, voting 3-2 to recommend denial of the project. Voting against denial were Planning Commissioners Andy Smith and Galt Porter, the latter of whom represents the area where the shelter would be located; the two were the sole votes in favor of Porter’s recommendation that the rezoning be approved but with multiple stipulations, such as a ban against registered sex offenders and/or those who had been previously convicted of violent felonies.

Though the Mableton Improvement Coalition last month urged planning commissioners to approve the application but with many conditions, Robin Maier, MIC’s zoning committee chairwoman, said it had since voted to take a neutral position. MIC is a membership-based, volunteer civic association focused on the area.

“We cannot find a way to advocate for our entire community, which includes residents both in homes and the homeless, and the Family Life Restoration Center, which is also a vital part of our community,” Meyer said.

The Cobb Planning Commission’s recommendation for denial now heads to county commissioners, who have the final say on the rezoning request and could take up the measure at its next zoning meeting, set for 9 a.m. May 21 in the Cobb Government Building.