At 6 p.m. Thursday, the Walton County Planning Commission will hear arguments for and against a transitional home for troubled youth from Walton and Barrow counties. If approved at the January Board of Commissioners meeting, the 20-acre farm would be located on Hodges Road, in the Loganville portion of unincorporated Walton County.
Residents in the surrounding neighborhood, both inside and outside the Loganville city limits, intend to show up in force to voice their objects to the home.
A petition has been circulating in the adjoining neighborhoods, including in the Pines at Tara subdivision off Tom Brewer Road, urging the BOC to deny the rezone request, thereby putting an end for plans to bring the facility to the area. The property is currently zoned for a funeral home.
According to the application made by the Rev. Bengie Evans, only 5.16 of the 20.4 acres would be used for the transitional housing. Named The Weekend Academy, Evans has plans for the facility to house youth, primarily males, between the ages of 16 and 24. This would be a faith-based program incorporating the "Twelve Steps to Wellness Program." TWA also has partnered with the US Department of Agriculture for this project with plans to incorporate a farming component into the program. During their transition, the youth would be training in agriculture and basic farming methods. According to the application, the produce generated by this training would be used for the local poor and elderly. It would include a garden and raising of cattle.
Residents, however, are concerned about locating troubled youth in what is primarily a residential area. The Walton County Sheriff’s Office appears to share some of those concerns, stating in the application that if approved it would likely generate more calls from the surrounding community.
Residents in the Pines at Tara said the community is mostly retired couples with grandchildren or young couples with children. Residents have said they feel they will have to install alarms in their homes.
In the petition circulating in objection to the transitional home, some of the concerns raised include:
- The safety and security of residents and property in surrounding neighborhoods and residential areas.
- Concern for safety of youth, adults and senior citizens participating nearby in various activities at West Walton Recreational Fields, meridian Park, West Walton Senior Center, Loganville High School, subdivisions.
- Increased calls to WCSO and Loganville Police Department by alarms, in many instances likely to be false alarms, which already generate a high rate of call outs.
- Concerns over the age range of the troubled youths targeted going up to age 24 and that although the applications says “primarily males,” it doesn’t stipulate only males.
- The proven history of increased crime rates and lowering property values in areas where facilities of this nature are established.
Other concerns include the fact that the petition doesn’t appear to include plans for security fences, cameras or alarms by the applicant. Although it is for misdemeanor offenders, residents point to cases where felony offences are sometimes pleaded down to misdemeanors.
The issue will be on the City of Loganville work session agenda Monday, Dec. 10 as well as on the Walton County Planning Commission meeting at the government buildings in Monroe on Dec. 13, 2012. It will come before the BOC on Jan. 8, 2013.