FARMINGTON — Dozens of people gathered at the Farmington City Council chambers Tuesday night to give input on a men's transitional shelter planned for 2107 Schofield Lane.
The council voted shortly before 11 p.m. Tuesday to strike down a proposed zoning change at the property that would allow Masada House to open a group care facility there.
The council voted 3-0 against the zoning change. Jason Sandel, Mary Fisher and Dan Darnell voted against the change. Gayla McCulloch, who owns land within the 100-foot radius, declined to vote due to conflict of interest.
The property is currently zoned as single-family residential and has permits to be a group care house, which means around eight adults can live in the building.
Masada House petitioned to have the zoning changed to multi-family and be turned into a group care facility, which would increase the capacity to 12 adults.
Because 63 percent of the neighbors within a 100-foot radius of the property opposed the change, a 75 percent approval was required from council to approve the facility.
Karen Chenault, the program director for Masada House, spoke at the meeting about the success of the women's transitional shelter, located at 610 N. Dustin Ave.
"Masada House prides itself on being good neighbors," she said.
She said she surveyed neighbors of the women's shelter, and five out of 11 neighbors didn't even know there was a shelter there.
"We chose to pursue this position partly because of its location," Chenault said.
She said the Masada House plans to repair the property on Schofield Lane and turn it into a transitional shelter regardless of the council's decision. But approving the zone change would allow the building to become a group care facility, and the shelter would be able to house more men.
Chenault said access to public transportation, churches and jobs at the Schofield Lane property is crucial to helping the men successfully recover from drug or alcohol abuse.
The main concern expressed by neighbors opposing the men's shelter was its location.
"We're not against the program," said Elaine Ortega, who spoke before the council along with her father. "We feel that it is needed, just not at this location."
Her father, Juan Ortega, said he was worried about the home's proximity to the Farmington Public Library. He said he fears parents will discourage their children from going to the library if the shelter is nearby.
The Ortegas also expressed concern about possible criminal activity.
Chenault assured the Ortegas that the men at Masada House will be screened to ensure no convicted violent or sexual offenders are accepted at the shelter. But, she said, many of the men have criminal records, usually involving drunken driving or other drug- or alcohol-related offenses.
Greg Drake also expressed concern about the children in the area.
Drake, whose grandson attends Grace Baptist Church's school, presented photos taken from the property. He pointed out that the school's playground backs up to 2107 Schofield Lane. He added that Crossroads Community Church, which also has a school, is less than half a mile away.
In another picture, he pointed to the Boys and Girls Club of Farmington, located in a brick building near the Allen Theater.
Drake said he doesn't think a men's transitional shelter should be located within a 1,000-foot radius of a school.
Previously, the building on Schofield Lane served as a family crisis center. Drake brought up police reports from that time period, which was from 1997 to 2011. The reports included two shots fired calls, five suicides, six fights, eight cases of larceny and five battery reports.
"I would say the neighbors in the area are used to it, but I would tell you they don't like it," he said.