The Metropolitan Planning Commission on Thursday approved a rezoning request for a recovery home for women with substance abuse issues, after residents had raised concerns about the issue but did not show to oppose the rezoning.
By a unanimous vote, MPC approved a request by Joyce Webb to rezone 2.35 acres at 725 Ebenezer Road from transition zoning to office zoning for Mandala Recovery Services Mandala House.
The Council of West Knox County Homeowners had written MPC with concerns about the request. Margot Kline, president of the group, said Thursday that she had planned to attend the meeting but had gotten some wrong information that the matter had been tabled so she did not go.
“Well, this will still go to county commission, and I think that is where this is going to have to be discussed anyway,” she said.
The MPC decision is not the final say. The rezoning will need to be voted on by Knox County Commission, and that is expected to happen at its March 27 meeting. The letter the neighborhood group sent to MPC asked that it deny the rezoning and not permit the Mandala request or those of similar operations in Knox County unless MPC and Knox County Commission work together to create county standards for halfway houses. Kline said that the group does not oppose halfway houses, but is concerned about the particular rezoning, which could open the area up to more intense development. The main concern, she said, is that the county does not have standards or definitions governing halfway homes or similar operations. If such guidelines existed, it might not be necessary to change zoning to allow these facilities to operate in a neighborhood, she said. “It (the facility) is really not in an area that has a lot of office use, so we question that, but not the need for this type of facility,” Kline said.
The only person who spoke on the request at MPC was the applicant’s lawyer, Jared Garceau.
“I think it is very important to highlight at this point that this is only a rezoning request,” he told planning commissioners. “I know there is opposition to the use, but use is another issue that we will be back before the commission on if the zoning is approved.”
“This is not a halfway house,” Garceau said. “I know that is what it has been referred to, but it is actually a recovery home for female adults who are recovering from drug addiction. It is a faith-based program. We have tight security measures, security cameras, alarm systems. There is a strict schedule that the residents follow.”
Garceau said the facility has relationships with local employers and finds jobs for its residents.
“The primary purpose of the facility is to create a family-like stable environment to foster rehabilitation and help these women transition into a sober lifestyle where they will be productive members of society,” he said.
Jared Garceau is an associate in the firm’s Knoxville office practicing in the areas of business and commercial law, construction, and general civil litigation. As a law student, Mr. Garceau was a two-year member of the National Professional Responsibility Moot Court Team. He also received the 2014 Chancellor’s Citation for Extraordinary Professional Promise as well as Certificates of Academic Excellence for receiving the top grade in Legal Process I, Civil Procedure II, Torts II, Legal Profession, Fundamental Concepts of Income Taxation, Constitutional Law, American Jurisprudence, Investigatory Criminal Procedure, Jurisprudence, Secured Transactions, Trial Practice, and Workers Compensation. Mr. Garceau worked as a law clerk for the firm during the summers of 2012 and 2013.