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Quinn House granted permit for relocation

LAWRENCEVILLE - The Lawrenceville City Council voted 3-1 in a called meeting Wednesday to create a special use under RS-150 residential zoning that will allow the Quinn House to move a group home for men to Hurricane Shoals Road.

The new "restricted temporary residential care home" special-use permit granted to the Quinn House by the council carries strict conditions. The house is currently zoned RS-150.

The Quinn House, a ministry of Signs & Wonders Inc., plans to purchase a large vacant home at 555 Hurricane Shoals Road and relocate the men's residence it operates at 184 Culver St. in downtown Lawrenceville into it. The conditions would require that the Quinn House close the Culver Street facility within six months.

The Quinn House offers a 40-day residential drug- and alcohol-abuse rehabilitation program for recently released prisoners and others who want to rectify their mistakes and assimilate back into the community. Residents are thoroughly screened, and the living environment is very structured, Quinn House Executive Director Gene Binkley said.

City Attorney Tony Powell, who volunteered to come up with a proposal addressing council concerns and citizen opposition, presented the list of conditions for the special-use permit to the council. Councilmen P.K. Martin, Bob Clark and Michael Crow voted in favor of the permit. Councilwoman Judy Johnson voted against it. Prior to adoption, Martin, who made the motion, and Clark, who seconded it, modified several of the conditions.

At Clark's suggestion, the conditions were changed to allow only one instead of two such facilities in the city. He also eliminated references specifying the gender of residents.

Martin added a condition requiring that another group home that the Quinn House operates on South Perry Street be closed within the next two to four years.

The conditions include enhancing the landscaping in the front of the house, adding to the plant buffer in the backyard to reduce visibility, and improving and maintaining the existing rear fence to a height of 8 feet.

The number of occupants would be limited to 16 with no more than 12 residents and four staff. Also, residents and staff would not be allowed to congregate in front of the facility, and outdoor gatherings would only be allowed inside the fence in the backyard.

No signage would be allowed, and parking would be limited to six vehicles. No additional accessory buildings or outdoor storage would be allowed on the property.

The intent, said Powell, is "to retain the appearance of a single-family residence."

Potential participants would be subjected to a criminal background check by the Lawrenceville Police Department. No sex offenders or individuals convicted of violent crimes would be allowed to live in the group home.

Further, residents convicted of violating city ordinances would be immediately expelled from the facility. And any violations of the conditions would result in revocation of the Quinn House's special-use permit after a hearing before the city council.

Additionally, the home would have to be attached to the Gwinnett County sewer system and meet the requirements of the county's fire code prior to obtaining a certificate of occupancy.

"We're willing to do what is needed to move into the house," Brinkley said. "We want to be a blessing and a resource to the community. We don't want to be a pain in the neck."

The council, the city's planning staff and planning commission have been attempting to develop an appropriate zoning category or special-use designation for the Quinn House over the past few months.

The planning commission had recommended in March that the house on Hurricane Shoals Road be rezoned to business general with the group home operating under a hotel/motel use allowed under BG zoning. After tabling the Quinn House rezoning several times, the council referred it back to the planning commission asking for a more appropriate zoning classification.

In a called meeting Tuesday, the Lawrenceville Planning Commission voted 2-1 to recommend creating the new special-use permit. But by a vote of 2-0, the commission voted to recommend against granting the permit to the Quinn House.

Opposition to the Quinn House's relocation plans has centered on the issue of child safety.

Charles Whitehead, who owns a home at 523 Hurricane Shoals Road, reiterated his concern about the proximity of the group home to a child care center, an apartment complex containing families with children and a high school.

"If one child is molested, or hurt or killed, I'd hate to have that blood on my hands," he said.

Martin and Clark said the conditions imposed on the Quinn House by the council offer adequate protection.

"There is a need for these kinds of facilities," Clark said. "They should certainly be embraced by our

community."

"We'll have a lot better handle on the Quinn House than on the apartment complex directly next to the child care center," Martin said.

Councilwoman Johnson objected to Whitehead's "blood" remark as inappropriate.