This residential property at 910 N. Davis St. in Albany is being proposed as a personal care home.
ALBANY, Ga. -- Barring some unforeseen, last-minute snafu, the Albany City Commission is expected to pass an updated personal care home ordinance at tonight's business meeting, lifting a 120-day moratorium that has kept operators of such homes from moving forward with plans to open the facilities in residential neighborhoods.
Planning Commission Director Paul Forgey has used existing state law and the federal Fair Housing Act as guidelines in forging a new ordinance under which personal care homes may operate in the city. Restrictions include requiring any facility planning to take in more than three residents to get conditional clearance from the City Commission, requiring state licensing and not allowing any facility to operate within 1,000 feet of any other such care home.
The commission approved three additions not in Forgey's original ordinance: requiring homes that take in patients released from mental care facilities to relay such information during the application process, not "grandfathering" existing care homes in under the new ordinance and requiring an annual fire inspection of each facility.
Ward IV City Commissioner Roger Marietta said that while his concern has always been the safety and integrity of the neighborhoods in which care homes will operate, he's satisfied that the new ordinance addresses those issues.
"I feel we made the right tweaks to the ordinance to achieve a balance," Marietta said. "There are restrictions, but we also wanted to protect the rights of the people in these neighborhoods. I'm still concerned about the parking issue, but I believe the main goal of protecting citizens from potentially dangerous residents has been addressed."
At one point during a lengthy discussion of the new ordinance last week, Marietta suggested extending the 120-day moratorium for an additional 90 days. He said he doesn't expect that action to be necessary now.
"I don't see a reason now to delay this issue further," he said.
Randy Bailey, who with his wife Lauren had requested an exception to the moratorium so that their Bailey Healthcare business could locate a personal care home at 910 N. Davis St. in the historic Rawson Circle neighborhood, said Monday he's not upset over the commission's refusal to grant the exemption.
"Once they pass the new ordinance, we will re-apply for a license to operate the home (at Davis Street)," Randy Bailey said. "I don't expect any problems because we're certainly within the guidelines of the new ordinance. I expect it will take us a month to get the facility ready for (three) residents.
"We obviously had hoped to get the exception because we met all the requirements of city ordinances. Are we bitter about having to wait (until the new ordinance is passed)? No, we feel that we were part of a conversation that was needed."
Both Forgey and City Attorney Nathan Davis warned commissioners that placing too many restrictions on personal care facilities might lead to costly -- and most likely unwinnable -- litigation. Marietta had suggested taking a closer look at the city of Waycross's personal care ordinance, which gives that city's commission the right to revoke the license of any facility deemed not in the public's best interest and limits the facilities to certain zoning districts.
Albany Fire Department officials noted more restrictions, based on fire protection requirements, in ordinances of Georgia's Douglas and DeKalb counties.
The need for additional personal care facilities grew from the 2011 civil action United States of America v. The State of Georgia, in which the state, in a settlement agreement, was forced to cease all admissions to state hospitals of persons with developmental disabilities and move 150 such individuals from state hospitals into the community.
Tonight's commission meeting starts at 6:30 p.m.