Lawrenceville council tables rezoning for group home

LAWRENCEVILLE - The Lawrenceville City Council on Monday tabled action on rezoning and a special-use permit that would allow the Quinn House to relocate its group home for men to Hurricane Shoals Road.

Gene Brinkley, executive director of the Quinn House, a ministry of Signs and Wonders Inc., told the council that the large brick home at 555 Hurricane Shoals Road "is a good house for us and a good location." The ministry plans to purchase the home and relocate the men's residence presently located at 184 Culver Street in downtown Lawrenceville.

The offices and the women's residence would remain at 120 S. Perry Street for the time being, he said.

The Quinn House operates a 40-day residential program that includes drug- and alcohol-abuse resistance counseling and spiritual guidance. The program reportedly has a success rate of about 80 percent.

"We only accept people who are serious about trying to assimilate back into society and become viable citizens and taxpayers again," Brinkley said.

Potential participants in the program are thoroughly screened, according to Brinkley, and the living environment at the Quinn House is very structured. "We don't allow anyone with a sexual problem or history" into the program, he said.

The Lawrenceville Planning Commission had voted 3-2 at its March meeting to recommend rezoning the property from residential to business general, eliminating all uses except "motel, motor hotels and extended stay hotels." Brinkley told the commission that about 20 to 24 men would probably be housed in the facility.

"The question is not the good that your organization does," said Councilwoman Judy Johnson. "I think the opposition would even agree. The question in my mind is whether this is the proper zoning."

Charles Whitehead, who owns a house for sale at 523 Hurricane Shoals Road, strongly opposed the rezoning.

"This is not the best place for this facility," Whitehead said. "It would be adjacent to a child care center with 100 small children and an apartment complex with 98 families."

The group home also would be only about seven-tenths of a mile from Georgia Gwinnett College, he said.

Dr. Taru Shah, who has a medical practice nearby, also objected to the group home's relocation plans.

"My main concern is the children's safety and welfare," she said.

John Sammons, whose late parents owned the house at 555 Hurricane Shoals Road, told the council that the family would like to sell the home, but the development of shopping centers and professional offices in the area have compromised its use as a single-family residence.

"I'm sure that you would agree it's not residential; it may not be commercial or O-I (office industrial)," Sammons said. The Quinn House would have less of an impact on city services and create less traffic, he said.

Councilman P.K. Martin made the motion to table discussion on the Quinn House rezoning until the council's work session at 3 p.m. May 21 and consider it for action at the regular June 2 meeting. The motion passed 4-0.

"Having the Quinn House here has never been a negative; it's always been positive," said Martin. "It's a highly qualified organization, and they run things well." However, Lawrenceville's zoning code doesn't have a category that fits it, he said. "We need to find a classification so we don't have a problem in the future."

Martin added that perhaps a compromise such as a buffer or fence could be worked out with the opposition so the Quinn House can proceed with its relocation plans. Most people don't realize that the existing Quinn House on Culver Street is there, he said.

Rezoning denied for shopping center

The council unanimously denied a request from Retail Capital Partners to rezone Bellbrook Station, a 14,000-square-foot shopping center under construction at Sugarloaf Parkway and Bellbrook Lane, from neighborhood business to general business.

Steve Maxey, representing the shopping center's developer, told the council the allowable uses under business neighborhood were outdated in today's leasing economy. Retail Capital Partners sought the change to attract tenants such as a family restaurant selling alcohol for on-premises consumption, a dry cleaner with plant, offices for health practitioners, and a fitness center.

The shopping center is adjacent to the Bellbrook Child Development Center. Denise Bernhardt, speaking on behalf of the child care center, said the developer had purchased the property knowing it was zoned for neighborhood business. A Johnson Road resident objected to the sale of alcoholic beverages near children.

Councilman Martin, who proffered the motion to deny the rezoning, indicated the council would ask the planning commission to review the uses allowed under neighborhood business zoning.