“This isn’t a case of not-in-my-backyard... this is a case of not in anyone’s back yard!” That’s how Statesville resident Anna Johnson described her objections to a proposed group home in her neighborhood during the Statesville City Council’s Oct. 19 meeting.
The controversy involves a home at 303 Saint Andrews Road in the Shannon Acres subdivision, east of Interstate 77. According to City Attorney Ed Gaines, FB Residential Holdings owns the home and has made an arrangement with RHA Health Services of Asheville to operate a group home for no more than four people with disabilities – meaning a person with a temporary or permanent physical, emotional or mental disability, including but not limited to mental retardation, cerebral palsy, epilepsy, autism, hearing and sight impairments, emotional disturbances and orthopedic impairments.
Gaines says RHA told him residents will not be mentally ill persons dangerous to others, as defined by state law.
Johnson said, “The patients that RHA serves definitely deserve the best of care, but we just do not feel that it is acceptable, wise, safe or allowable to place them in a densely-populated, single-family residential neighborhood like Shannon Acres.”
Johnson and several other speakers presented the city council with copies of RHA’s 2013 annual report, which indicates that over half of the emergency-respite admissions to their facilities in Western North Carolina were initiated by the threat of, or actual, aggressive behavior.
City Councilman Roy West also shares the neighbors’ concerns. “At one of their other group homes in the county located on Chestnut Road, there were 35 reported visits from the sheriffs office in the last five years ranging from assaults, communicating threats and attempted suicides. We have a number of young children in Shannon Acres and their parents are very concerned for their safety when they play outside.”
However Gaines said there is little the city can do at this point: “RHA has obtained a permit to do some remodeling to the home. Based on what they have said, after they finish their remodeling they will be asking for a zoning clearance and ultimately a certificate of occupancy.”
Gaines said that the city planning department will conduct an investigation at that time to make sure RHA meets the criteria contained in state law before a certificate of occupancy is issued.
Johnson remains unconvinced. “Certainly not all of the population served by RHA is violent and/or psychotic, but the percent who are is also certainly not negligible, either.”
RHA officials did not return repeated requests for comment.
Dave Vieser is a freelance writer. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.