City rejects request for halfway house

Residents said their neighborhood was not the right fit for a residential treatment facility for female ex-offenders.

Dayton’s Board of Zoning Appeals on Tuesday rejected a variance request to permit a halfway house for ex-convicts to move into South Park.

Alvis, a nonprofit agency, proposed creating a residential treatment center for about 32 female ex-offenders at a property on the 800 block of Wayne Avenue.

But the proposal faced staunch opposition from many residents, property owners and local neighborhood organizations.

City staff recommended the rejection of Alvis’ application because it sought a prohibited use in the zoning district and did not meet other zoning standards, including adequate sleeping and outdoor space.

Some residents and community leaders said a halfway house is the wrong fit for a rebounding neighborhood that is experiencing new investment and welcoming new homeowners.

South Park already struggles with drug abuse and crime and adding this high-risk population could be a recipe for more troubles and headaches, citizens said.

“This is not the right place for this,” said Amy Lee, president of Historic South Park.

But Alvis officials said their halfway homes are good neighbors that build up communities, and Montgomery County sorely lacks treatment options for women who need help transitioning from prison back to normal life.

On Tuesday evening, the Board of Zoning Appeals unanimously voted to reject Alvis’ application for a variance to establish a protective care facility.

Alvis proposed converting a former group home on Wayne Avenue, owned by Daybreak, into a residential treatment center .

Montgomery County has a severe shortage of beds and residential treatment options for women, even though about 172 female offenders who hail from the county are released from prison each year, said Denise Robinson, president and CEO of Alvis, which is based in Columbus.

Ex-offenders in need of residential treatment services have no choice but to move to other counties to enroll in programs or return to the local community with no services in place to help them readjust, officials said.

But city staff recommended the board reject the variance.

Protected care facilities are prohibited in that eclectic general zoning district and the property does not meet the minimum requirements for outdoor space, parking, sleeping space and is located too close to some local schools, said Jon White, city of Dayton planner.

Mark Keller, a resident of the South Park and local attorney, said the neighborhood is improving but it still must overcome negative perceptions that a treatment facility would only reinforce.

Zoning appeals board members said granting a variance would require meeting a variety of criteria, which this project fails to meet.

Board members and South Park residents said they strongly support Alvis’ mission and believes it has a good reputation, but the location is inappropriate for the kind of facility they want to open.

“We think there are other communities that could better support one of these,” Lee said.

This type of facility would work in a light industrial area or other districts with more of a buffer from people’s homes, she said.

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