Fairview rejects youth home proposal

Jan. 16, 2013 @ 06:24 PM

Fairview's planning board voted to not recommend approval of a conditional use permit for a proposed youth facility on Concord Highway near the intersection of Clontz Long Road Tuesday.

The permit request came from Anderson Health Services Inc. and was for an immediate care institution for youth.

According to an Anderson Health Services Inc. statement given to Fairview staff, plans are to build a secured residential treatment facility campus to provide behavioral health services to boys and girls ages 12- to 17- years-old who have behavior challenges that make living at home with mothers and fathers whose parenting skills are inadequate, not practical.

Fairview residents and others from nearby areas filled the meeting space inside of Fairview Fire and Rescue Tuesday night to hear Anderson Health Service's Inc.'s presentation on the proposed project and to ask questions. The majority of seats in the room were filled Tuesday night and those without seats stood and leaned against walls as they learned more about the project.

"They (the planning board) made a recommendation 5 to 2 to not approve it," Ed Humphries, Fairview's land use administrator/town clerk, said.

The project is scheduled to be presented to Fairview's town council on Feb. 11 and a public hearing is also scheduled that day. Despite this, the applicant could choose to withdraw the application before then, Humphries said.

Multiple people interested in making the facility a reality attended and spoke at Tuesday's meeting. Leslie Mussington, the planned director of the facility, and others worked to emphasize to the crowd its various aspects, overall mission, safety aspects and other features.

"We want them (children attending the facility) to have opportunities for normal maturation," Mussington said.

Throughout the presentation, he and others working on the project spoke about the many therapeutic aspects of the facility, the treatment opportunities those attending it will be offered, how the facility's children will be cared for and monitored and ways they hope to integrate the facility into the surrounding community in both appearance as well as in possibly giving back to and helping the local community.

According to the permit request, the proposed facility will include six new single family homes, each over 3,400 square feet. There would also be a 13,000 square foot multipurpose administrative building, a yoga and fitness center, recreational complex with soccer/football fields, basketball and tennis courts, golf range, track field and baseball field. A gardening area and other therapeutic recreational resources are also planned. The facility would employ around 100 people who will include security guards, maintenance workers, cafeteria workers, licensed social workers, psychiatrists, nurses, teachers, behavioral counselors and other behavioral health workers. The staff will treat youth with attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), oppositional defiant disorder, emotional trauma, sexual victimization, conduct disorder, and attachment and abandonment issues. 

Students would attend individual, group and family therapy sessions. A 24-hours security staff with a ratio of 4:12 would closely monitor residents. Each home would be staffed and secured at all times and the students' movements restricted and controlled with locked doors, security cameras and close circuit television monitoring. Outside the residential area there would be outdoor fencing, locked gates and patrols by trained personnel and paid off-duty officers, according to an Anderson Healthcare Inc. statement.

Concerns of the public voiced during the meeting included how well children at it could be monitored and kept safe, the effect of the facility a near by property values, costs to run the facility and costs for children to attend.

In response to questions about past experiences with similar facilities, Mussington said that they currently are not operating any similar facilities and that he has worked with group homes in the past that were successful.

 "I chose to go on and do other things in my career," he said in response to why he no longer works with the previous group homes.

Mussington said that the facility they are proposing is not a detention center in response to a question about the facility's characteristics.

Jesse Hargett, vice chairman of Fairview's planning board, made the motion to recommend that the conditional use permit not be approved Tuesday.

"I think it is not right for this community," he said during his reasoning for the motion.

He said that he felt the plans for the facility were not congruent with the spirit of the town of Fairview.

After his motion, the board voted 5 to 2 to recommend that the permit not be approved with Patricia Kindley and Nancy Horak Randall voting in opposition to the recommendation.

"I think that a lot of the comments that I have heard from the community seem to be coming from a place of fear, I personally have worked with juvenile delinquents. I've read every word about this here that was given to me and I don't see this facility as a detention facility," Kindley said.

Those attending the meeting applauded after the vote.

"I thought it was a terrible idea with all the schools in the area," Lynn Nader, a local resident, said.

She and her husband, Fred Nader, said they were also concerned about the potential effect of the facility on home sales.

Allison Plyler, another resident, said she was concerned about safety since she lives close to the proposed site and also worried about its effect on home and property values.

"In every community there are going to be people who are passionate about where they live," Mussington said after Tuesday's vote.

He admires the many people from the community that spoke and expressed their thoughts Tuesday night though he disagreed with some of them. He was not discouraged by the planning board's decision and said they would look elsewhere in the state if necessary to build the facility. One of his goals with the facility was to have a place for North Carolina children to go and get proper treatment in the state instead of out of state since many are already being sent to other states for treatment, he said.

"At what point will North Carolina residents agree to accept North Carolina children in North Carolina," he said.

Alfred Owens, the principal owner of Anderson Health Services, Inc., said Wednesday that plans for the proposed Fairview facility are still being considered.