This residential property at 910 N. Davis St. in Albany is being proposed as a personal care home.
ALBANY, Ga. — Even after voting not to allow Bailey Healthcare Inc. an exception to the 120-day moratorium on personal care homes in the city at a special called meeting Tuesday morning, the Albany City Commission found itself no closer to a solution on the issue.
Following the called meeting vote, which would have allowed Bailey Healthcare to move forward with plans to bring three clients to a Community Living Arrangement facility at a home the company is leasing in the Rawson Circle neighborhood at 910 N. Davis St., commissioners engaged in an exhaustive discussion of a new ordinance that would address the issues that led to a 120-day moratorium on granting licenses to such facilities in the first place.
At one point Ward IV Commissioner Roger Marietta offered a motion to extend the moratorium for another 90 days before further discussion led him to withdraw the motion.
Planning Director Paul Forgey and City Attorney Nathan Davis explained to the board that a proposed ordinance, tentatively set for a vote at next Tuesday’s evening business session, had been carefully worded to meet the requirements of the federal Fair Housing Act. But Marietta, for one, didn’t think the ordinance went far enough.
“We need to go further to protect our citizens,” the Ward IV commissioner said. “Dangerous residents not mentioned in the ordinance, such as those released from mental health facilities, should be identified in the application process. We need a mechanism in place to screen individuals as (applications) come in.”
Both Forgey and Davis warned that passing an ordinance that opposed the Fair Housing Act could lead to costly litigation that the city would likely lose.
“Federal law dictates that we treat people with disabilities the same as any other citizen in the community,” Forgey said. “For instance, we can restrict parking (at personal care homes) only as much as we restrict parking for any other residence. Any conditions we require of a family care residence we have to require of other residents in that neighborhood.”
When Marietta later suggested wording be added to the city ordinance that would reflect restrictions placed on people who have been released from mental health facilities in addition to those released from jails and prisons, he drew opposition from both Davis and Ward III Commissioner Christopher Pike.
“I don’t think that language would hold up,” Pike said. “Mental health issues deal with an illness, not incarceration for breaking the law.”
Added Davis: “I really don’t feel comfortable adding and deleting wording in state definitions.”
The new ordinance, as discussed by Forgey, would allow personal care facilities in the city to accommodate up to four residents without having to meet special conditions. If such facilities comply with all other conditions, they would be eligible to apply for occupancy licenses as soon as the ordinance is passed.
Facilities with plans to house four to six residents would have to seek conditional approval from the commission, unless they are locating in a district zoned for multiple-family housing. Care homes would be allowed to house more than six residents in multi-family districts.
Care home business applicants would also have to acquire a state license and could not locate within 1,000 feet of any other type of personal care facility under the new ordinance.
After much discussion, the commission voted to have staff add wording to the amendment that would do away with plans to “grandfather” in existing facilities (although none would be subject to the distance or zoning restrictions of the new ordinance), to require a yearly fire inspection and to add residents released from mental health facilities to groups subject to restrictions.