Councilors debate whether downtown is appropriate location

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FARMINGTON — A divided Farmington City Council has approved a zone change that allows a transitional living facility for inmates to be built in the downtown area near the Civic Center.

The council voted 3-2 in favor of the zone change at 129 N. Behrend Ave. during its meeting Tuesday evening. The meeting can be viewed online at fmtn.org.

The property will change from a commercial use zone to a multiple use zone, which allows transitional living facilities.

Councilors Nate Duckett and Sean Sharer voted in favor of the zone change while Councilors Gayla McCulloch and Linda Rodgers voted against it. Mayor Tommy Roberts broke the tie with a vote in favor of the zone change. Roberts only votes if there is a tie.

The transitional living facility would be a faith-based program operated by the Frontline Mission and by Celebrate Recovery. The clients would be screened before acceptance into the program, and violent offenders would not be permitted. 

The vote came down to whether downtown was the proper location for a transitional living facility.

"I suppose if we had an ideal world, we'd have a place set aside over here in our community for services of this kind and facilities of this kind," Roberts said.

He said that type of place does not exist and likely will not be created in the future.

"I think it's a worthy cause," Roberts said about the transitional living facility. "I think it's a just cause."

After the vote, Sharer said he voted in favor of the zone change because there are properties zoned multiple use in the vicinity of 129 N. Behrend Ave.

McCulloch said she is in favor of having a transitional living facility for inmates, but she does not think the proposed location is the right place.

Doug Dykeman, who serves on the city's Metropolitan Redevelopment Area board and who lives in the downtown area, said downtown is not the proper place for a transitional living facility. He said it would increase the fear factor that some people have about the district being a place of inebriates and homeless people. He said the location also could expose the clients in the transitional living facility to drugs, alcohol and prostitutes.

He said the transitional living facility should be located in a residential neighborhood.

"I'm in favor of re-entry programs of all kinds. However, this is not the place to do it," Dykeman said.

Hannah Grover covers government for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652 or via email at hgrover@daily-times.com.

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