City Council approves addiction recovery residence zoning amid disapproval from neighbors

Blakeley Bartee

The Statesboro City Council approved a request to allow the use of a house near downtown Statesboro for a women’s addiction recovery residence at their Tuesday meeting.

Addiction counselor Paula Becker requested the city allow her to run the residence at 109 Broad St., which required a conditional use variance from the zoning ordinance in that area.

The ordinance allows single-family living units, but the addiction recovery residence will house up to six women sharing two bedrooms in addition to a female live-in staff member, who will have her own bedroom.

Becker said the 109 Broad St. property is optimal for the recovery residence, adding that the women would live under strict rules during their year-long stay, including a curfew and working a job.

“With the disease of addiction, it takes almost a year for the brain to heal. I would like to provide a place for women … a place where they can come and start to rebuild the lives that they’ve probably burned to the ground,” Becker said.

Other rules Becker listed for the recovery residents include no contacting males, slowly earning car privileges, attending addiction meetings and taking care of themselves and the house. She said the residents would be permitted to say hello to their neighbors, but would not be allowed to engage in social situations like visiting neighbors’ homes for coffee.

Council Member John Riggs had the sole vote against the motion. Riggs, who works in real estate, said he had appraised the house. He took issue with having several people living in a home with a driveway a few feet away from the next door neighbors.

“Six women, six people living in that house is going to make a lot of noise. Both of these are really small lots, and the houses are right next to each other. Just for that reason alone, I had to deny it,” Riggs said after the meeting.

Residents’ concerns

A next door neighbor, David Posner, spoke on behalf of himself and his wife, Barbara Posner, before the council’s vote. They live in the house located a few feet away from the future addiction recovery residence’s driveway.

Posner said he was against Becker’s request, citing concerns about property values, noise level and the “character, spirit and quality” of the neighborhood.

Cathy Skidmore-Hess, another Broad Street homeowner who lives close to the house at 109, opposed the request. She said she sympathized with the desire to house women in recovery from addiction, but was concerned about housing them in her neighborhood.

“I have three teenage boys. Two of them have autism and are very impressionable. This concerns me. I’m not saying that these women necessarily will be a problem, but I think that … having these changes could be a problem if we have an increasing number of halfway houses in the neighborhood,” Skidmore-Hess said.

Pete Williams lives in a house two doors down from 109 Broad St. He spoke for roughly eleven minutes in opposition to the request, mentioning concerns about being able to socialize with his neighbors, the safety of his 8-year-old son, limited parking spaces and possible crime.

Two other Statesboro residents, Glenn Haynes and Georgia’s Bed and Breakfast owner Helen Cannon, also voiced opposition to the motion.

Becker addressed the residents’ concerns prior to the council vote.

Becker said the women cannot use drugs or alcohol and continue to live in the house. The women are allowed to smoke, but only in the backyard, she said.

“As far as crime, we’re talking about seven women. I don’t foresee them breaking down doors. I can’t guarantee that they’re not going to do something bad — I can’t guarantee my own daughter isn’t going to do something bad,” Becker said. “All I can do is model the behavior for them, tell them what the rules are and expect them to follow it if they want a roof over their head.”

For parking, Becker said the house has a two-car carport in the back in addition to the driveway. Becker said she was also open to negotiating other parking accommodations with a nearby apartment complex.

The residents will have to pay a rent less than $1,000 to pay for room and board, Becker said.

The City Council vote

Prior to the vote, Council Member Shari Barr said she empathized with both Becker and the opposing residents and moved to approve Becker’s application with conditions.

The conditions included avoiding excessive parking, no posting signage and obtaining a Georgia Association of Recovery Residences certification.

The council voted to approve the application with the conditions, with one opposing vote from Riggs.

Riggs said his vote had “nothing to do with stigma of addiction and recovery,” but was due to the number of people set to live at the house.

Blakeley Bartee, The George-Anne Editor-in-Chief,

Anthony Belinfante contributed to this report.