A request to rezone a home in Thomaston from R-1 to P-1 in order to turn it into an assisted living form of personal care home had neighbors speaking for and against it at a public hearing before the Thomaston City Council last Tuesday. Parking was a major issue, with the end result being the petitioner, Millie Danns, withdrawing her request and agreeing to develop a better parking plan and resubmitting her request to the Thomaston Zoning Commission.
The Zoning Commission recommended a conditional rezoning 616 South Church Street, Danns’ residence since 1989, following a meeting in September. The commission recommended rezoning it from R-1 (Low Density Residential) to P-1 (Professional-Institutional) with the condition that it only be used for the personal care home and should Danns ever sell the property it would revert back to R-1.
The home has five bedrooms, and Danns said one will be her personal bedroom and the other four will be for residents, either single residents, or two residents if they are married. She will have a total of seven staff members working shifts around the clock. Danns, who is a nurse with Amedysis Home Health Care in Butler, will stay at the home at night.
Danns is required to having five parking spaces for the facility, and said she had an engineer “eyeball” the site and determine there is space for five parking spots. She said she has not started on construction of the spaces until a decision on the rezoning is made. She said the majority of the residents will be transported by staff when they need to go to the doctor or shopping, and that she does not anticipate much traffic in and out.
But attorney Ronald Barfield, representing one of Dann’s neighbors, Laquita Jordan, spoke out against the rezoning request. Barfield stated that the entire neighborhood is zoned R-1, and it would be spot zoning to put a commercial business in the middle of a residential neighborhood. Barfield also stated his client felt it wasn’t right to put a business there because people spend money buying homes and fixing them up, and to have a business move in could be detrimental to the value of the homes in the area. Barfield noted that the rezoning is in direct conflict with the city’s comprehensive plan. He added that Danns has property elsewhere in the county and she could put the hospice somewhere else.
Danns responded by stating that her business will not be a hospice, but an assisted living facility where the residents are assisted in living in a home. She said she wants to put it there because that is her house and she will be living there, also. Danns said the zoning requires five parking spaces, and said an engineer had “eye-balled” the area and said there is space for five vehicles. She said she will have a staff of seven, including herself, who will be at the house on a rotating basis. Danns also noted that many of the homes in the area are rental homes, and not the homes of the people who own them.
Douglas and April Bunn, who rent an adjacent home, said there are many rental houses in the area and that they can’t count five people who actually live in their own homes. They said Danns has done a lot of work on her house and kept it presentable over the years, and they personally did not have any objection to her opening a business there.
Martha Bell, another neighbor, asked how many total would be living in the house. Danns said five residents if they were single, and up to 10 residents if they were married. Bell asked if any children would be allowed to live there, and Danns said no, that they would all be retired people. Bell also asked what would happen to the home if Danns decided to sell it. City Attorney Joel Bentley stated that under the rezoning request, the home must remain an assisted living facility, else it would revert back to R-1 residential zoning.
Bentley, who noted that in the past he has done legal work for Danns, but is not doing work for her now, stated he believes Barfield is right about it being spot zoning, but noted that before he became attorney, three other current nursing homes were rezoned to P-1 in areas that were R-1, and that there is a nearby doctor’s office in a house that was rezoned from R-1 to P-1.
Council member Jim Richards made a motion to deny the rezoning. Mayor Pro Tem Doug Head seconded the motion, and discussion continued.
Bentley noted that P-1 zoning parking rules require a space for every two beds, spaces for employees and visiting nurses or doctors, and a turnaround area. He stated he was not sure the spaces Danns has fits under P-1, and suggested she withdraw her rezoning request, have an engineer actually determine the number of spaces she will have that fit under P-1, and resubmit her rezoning request to the Zoning Commission again.
Danns agreed, and Richards and Head agreed to withdraw their motion.