From Bristol Herald Courier – Apr 29, 2020
A resolution that would have allowed local nonprofit Haven of Rest to operate a transitional housing facility for former prisoners died in front of the Bristol Virginia City Council after failing to get a second motion during Tuesday night’s general business meeting.
Haven of Rest wanted to give men struggling with drug addiction a place to stay after being released on probation. The facility would have been located at a two-story home on 617 Moore St., and the organization sought a special-exception permit to allow such a recovery center on the R-3 zoned property. Councilman Anthony Farnum made the first motion, but no one on council offered the second the resolution needed to receive a vote.
In Bristol, Tennessee, the Haven operates the residential Lighthouse program, which is similar to the transitional housing proposal it made for Virginia. Had the special-exception permit been granted, the program would have allowed six to seven men, along with a Haven supervisor, to stay at the home for six to 18 months each. Violent offenders, sex offenders and juveniles would not have been admitted into the program, and all participants would have been required to have jobs.
Additionally, the Haven’s program would employ a zero-tolerance policy for drug and alcohol use and would test participants on a regular basis. Participants would also abide by a 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew.
At its March 16 meeting, the Bristol Virginia Planning Commission voted 4-0 to recommend that council support the special-exception request on three conditions: any future change in the program would need to undergo a Planning Commission review; the total number of occupants would be limited to nine, including one staff member; and participants could not remain in the facility more than 24 months.
However, in the time since the planning commission made its recommendation, the city has received feedback from several community members in opposition to granting the special use.
Gene Couch, president of Virginia Business College, which is located near the Moore Street house, sent a letter to the city on March 23 stating his and the college’s opposition.
Couch’s letter stated that Moore Street is the main thoroughfare between the college and downtown and that the facility would harm Moore Street’s image and the college’s recruiting efforts if allowed.
One letter the city received from a nearby property owner stated the facility’s presence would damage property values of nearby homes that are being renovated.
Nancy Marney, a city resident, told council that Moore Street has potential for development and revitalization, but allowing the transitional housing program to happen on the street would stop that potential.
“If this is passed, you are giving the kiss of death — bam! — to Moore Street,” Marney said.
After the meeting, Haven of Rest Executive Director Brian Plank told the Bristol Herald Courier he was disappointed by the outcome and does not see another way to push the issue at the current time.
“We will move forward and will reevaluate where we go from here,” Plank said.
He added that if the special-exception permit had been granted, the program and maintenance of the property would have been paid for by donations made to the Haven. But he also said he wishes Virginia Business College the best in its recruiting efforts, as its success will benefit the community.