Group home for homeless veterans approved

The Middletown Planning Commission vacated its earlier decision on Wednesday, which makes way for the proposed group home in the city’s South End. The home at 1314 Fairmount Ave. is proposed to be used as a residence for homeless veterans from Middletown who are recovering from substance abuse issues.

Les Landen, the city’s law director, said there was a “misunderstanding” after the August planning commission meeting about how the home was going to be used. He said the city — because of wording on the application — thought it was going to be a shelter or group home. Instead, he said, because three to five residents will be living there, it’s considered residential, which is a permissible use.

Landen said the residents “have a right to be there.”

“If we had an accurate description to start with as a project, it would have prevented a lot of confusion,” said Middletown Planning Director Marty Kohler. “It wasn’t until the application was rejected and the applicant gave some additional details that we really knew what was being proposed.”

Kohler said the applicant, Walter Gilbert, executive director at the Holt Street Miracle Center in Dayton, gave a proposal that seemed to fit what the city considered a family care home, which is not a permitted use in a single-family area.

Gilbert, who could not be reached for comment Thursday, is free to proceed without any special permits or requirements by the city. He will also be refunded his $200 application fee to request a special use.

The house, owned by John Porter of Trenton, is located in the middle of a low-traffic, mixed-use neighborhood with rental and owner-occupied homes. Gilbert, who presented the project to planning commission in August, said at that time the location was chosen because it’s within walking distance of two Alcoholics Anonymous programs.

However, some residents and property owners oppose the plan because they said the house is located a block-and-a-half away from the old turf of the Baltimore Street Gang that terrorized the neighborhood for years with assaults, robberies and drug dealing. The proposed location is not the right area for a group home for people recovering from substance abuse issues, they said, as drug activity is still prevalent in the area.

“We were starting to get the neighborhood cleaned up and I don’t feel it needs to be right here,” said Frank Hollon, who lives on Fairmount Avenue. “They got buildings downtown that they could be occupying.”

The neighborhood, Hollon said, still has problems with illegal drugs.

“(I worry) they’ll go back to doing drugs and then we got drugs back in the neighborhood again. I don’t feel that’s right for the community,” he said.

Christa Thompson, who also lives on Fairmount Avenue, said she too worries about those recovering from substance abuse living in the home.

“It would kind of worry me (if they relapsed),” she said. “I got kids so I wouldn’t want anybody that’s on drugs.”

However, she said, “as long as they don’t bother me, I’m cool with it.”

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