Commission votes against group home

COVINGTON -- Commissioners denied a conditional use permit Tuesday night for a group home for mentally and physically disabled adults.

The group home was proposed for an existing residence at 635 Oak Terrace Drive in Oakwood Manor subdivision.

County ordinance allows a group home with up to six residents in a residential neighborhood if a conditional-use permit is obtained. The resident manager is included in the six-person limit.

The Planning Commission had recommended denial of the petition.

Applicant Marlon Dorma with Heavenly Homes said Tuesday that he would be willing to increase staff to address neighbors' concerns about safety. He said the home would not impact property values in the neighborhood.

But nearby residents disagreed, saying the home would have a negative impact on their subdivision.

Marjorie Lawson said she purchased her home in Oakwood Manor because its covenants state each lot is only to be used for residential purposes.

"As far as we're concerned, this group home is in direct violation of our bylaws," she said.

Another resident, Tonya Young, said she managed a group home in Maryland for disabled adults and there were often problems with them leaving the facility.

"They have rights just like we do. You can't restrain them," she said, adding that she is concerned they will leave the facility and go onto neighbors' properties.

Emma Derrick spoke on behalf of herself and her daughter, Dana Derrick, who is serving in Iraq.

Derrick said she has also worked with mentally challenged adults and is concerned they could get out and do damage to property. She said if the group home is allowed, she worries it could open the flood gates for other non-residential uses.

"I'm not opposed to someone trying to help those less fortunate, but there are places to do everything," she said.

Nancy Schulz made the motion to deny the conditional use permit based on concerns about whether the site is of adequate size for the facility and compatibility with other properties in the same zoning district.