To the editor,
I’m disappointed by the accuracy of The Palladium-Times’ March 18, 2021 article “Committee rejects group home proposal.” I was one of the members of the Zoning Board of Appeals who voted “yes.” This is an issue that causes strong emotions in some people. The article does not quote anyone who voted “yes” or give any context on that vote. The article simply states that I voted “yes” and that’s not true.
There were neighbors and city councilors representing dozens more urging us to vote “no” on this permit. However, voting “no” meant no to the permit and potential tax-exempt status. The properties would still operate as group homes and be held to the standards of a rental property (as explained by the author).
I voted against those wishes because I felt they were saying no to the group homes existing in general. That was not within our power. We added a half dozen special conditions to a “yes” vote in order to hold these properties to a much higher standard than rentals.
The most important ones to me were: 1) the properties must be brought up to code (same with either vote), 2) a published phone number allowing neighbors to raise issues, 3) security cameras, 4) annual code enforcement inspections. While far from a perfect solution, I think this would have been good use of our limited power. If you want to criticize this vote that’s fine with me and I’ll listen to it. However, this is far different from a simple "yes" vote.
This board exists to protect the interests of residents. In this case, the more controversial vote is the “yes” vote since it is going against the wishes of the residents. The article should clarify the power of the board, which does not include adding or removing group homes. It should also list the special conditions in a “yes” vote. The Pall-Times is the only news source for these hearings. That’s why it’s vitally important that they explain both sides of a controversial issue. Not doing so sways people toward an uninformed opinion on an emotional issue. That is a dangerous thing and seems to be an epidemic in this country.
I hope in the future the Pall-Times will take greater care to reflect both sides of controversial issues. That will allow its readers to develop informed opinions and lead to better solutions on these issues facing our community.