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Residents Object to Plans for a Transitional Youth Home in Walton County

Plans for a transitional home for troubled youths in Walton County has residents in the surrounding Loganville community up in arms.

At 6 p.m. Thursday, the Walton County Planning Commission will hear arguments for and against a transitional home for troubled youth from Walton and Barrow counties. If approved at the January Board of Commissioners meeting, the 20-acre farm would be located on Hodges Road, in the Loganville portion of unincorporated Walton County.

Residents in the surrounding neighborhood, both inside and outside the Loganville city limits, intend to show up in force to voice their objects to the home.

A petition has been circulating in the adjoining neighborhoods, including in the Pines at Tara subdivision off Tom Brewer Road, urging the BOC to deny the rezone request, thereby putting an end for plans to bring the facility to the area. The property is currently zoned for a funeral home.

According to the application made by the Rev. Bengie Evans, only 5.16 of the 20.4 acres would be used for the transitional housing. Named The Weekend Academy, Evans has plans for the facility to house youth, primarily males, between the ages of 16 and 24. This would be a faith-based program incorporating the Twelve Steps to Wellness Program. TWA also has partnered with the US Department of Agriculture for this project with plans to incorporate a farming component into the program. During their transition, the youth would be training in agriculture and basic farming methods. According to the application, the produce generated by this training would be used for the local poor and elderly. It would include a garden and raising of cattle.

Residents, however, are concerned about locating troubled youth in what is primarily a residential area. The Walton County Sheriff’s Office appears to share some of those concerns, stating in the application that if approved it would likely generate more calls from the surrounding community.

Residents in the Pines at Tara said the community is mostly retired couples with grandchildren or young couples with children. Residents have said they feel they will have to install alarms in their homes.

In the petition circulating in objection to the transitional home, some of the concerns raised include:

  • The safety and security of residents and property in surrounding neighborhoods and residential areas.
  • Concern for safety of youth, adults and senior citizens participating nearby in various activities at West Walton Recreational Fields, meridian Park, West Walton Senior Center, Loganville High School, subdivisions.
  • Increased calls to WCSO and Loganville Police Department by alarms, in many instances likely to be false alarms, which already generate a high rate of call outs.
  • Concerns over the age range of the troubled youths targeted going up to age 24 and that although the applications says “primarily males,” it doesn’t stipulate only males.
  • The proven history of increased crime rates and lowering property values in areas where facilities of this nature are established.

Other concerns include the fact that the petition doesn’t appear to include plans for security fences, cameras or alarms by the applicant. Although it is for misdemeanor offenders, residents point to cases where felony offences are sometimes pleaded down to misdemeanors.

The issue will be on the City of Loganville work session agenda Monday, Dec. 10 as well as on the Walton County Planning Commission meeting at the government buildings in Monroe on Dec. 13, 2012. It will come before the BOC on Jan. 8, 2013.

Tammy Osier December 10, 2012 at 10:38 PM
Well, if they can't have it there, they need to have it somewhere. I have worked with troubled youth for a long time and its better to have them in a place where they can have a chance at learning workable life skills (under supervision) than out on the street and into trouble unsupervised. They are there either way.
Margaret Manthei December 11, 2012 at 03:16 AM
Thank you Tammy. If you see the exact location, it is good. Many people are trying to generate fear and no common sense. Not bordering a sub-division, close to police station and bordering properties are businesses. A transitional home is much better than turning them out on the street.
Tammy Osier December 11, 2012 at 03:42 AM
Jut curious, if anyone knows, how are people placed there? Are they court ordered, volunteered or committed?
Sharon Swanepoel December 11, 2012 at 04:09 AM
I believe court ordered Tammy, but I'm not 100 percent sure because there will be a new application heard on Thursday.
Gladys Strickland December 11, 2012 at 02:53 PM
Bengie has not given any definite information on how these 16-25 year old troubled youth are to be supervised. He has shown no financial information on how he can run this facility. Evidently this property is not close to your personal homes (Tammy/Margaret) or you would be afraid for your safety too. I am a 71 year old grandmother who does not want this facility within close range to my home. How dare you say I have no right to fear these troubled youth or that I have no common sense. It is very, very close to my sub-division and close to a pre-school at the Church next door. You need to get your facts straight before making comments.
Gladys Strickland December 11, 2012 at 02:55 PM
Oh, by the way, thanks Mr. Bagley for your seemingly support of this facility. You can fool some of the people some of the time - but you will not fool me again. I hope you do run for office again.
Sheila Wiessel December 11, 2012 at 04:36 PM
Then all you bleeding heart ladies need to take them home with you. I don't want them as my neighbors. PERIOD. Trouble is what you are asking for. Barrow county needs to house their own criminals and mind you they are criminals. You can not rehabilitate these people. If you think you can you are sadly mistaken. You might save one in a million but it is few and far between. I know this for a fact I have a cousin who is a criminal and he is in and out like a revolving door. He was not poor, he comes from a family with lots of money so he was not deprived. Criminals are criminals by choice. Don't be stupid. Sheila
Concerned citizen December 11, 2012 at 07:47 PM
Find a new location. No need to bring trouble to a good area, choose one where people already don't care about their surroundings. People in Loganville choose to live here bc of the safe area. And tell me how a grown 24 year old man is living in a youth center??? At 18 your an "adult"....that is when they allow you to vote. Even so at the age of 21 you are an adult!
Christal Bandy December 11, 2012 at 08:06 PM
A place like this saved my sons life. As for your safety most of these places have strict rules and if not followed person is taken to shelter and dropped off. As for safety. I live in a nice area. Had 4 cop cats at my neighbors today. You can't guarantee safety anywhere.
Christal Bandy December 11, 2012 at 08:08 PM
Sorry for typos. Used phone not PC that would be# cars not cats
Michelle Couch December 11, 2012 at 08:27 PM
It seems a bit harsh to me to completely give up on troubled/at-risk youth, and chalk them up to less-than-zero hardened criminals. The 24 year old age limit likely applies to state recognized individuals with special needs, as those kids remain in the state's school system until that age and/or are entitled to special provisions. Youth detention centers, jail and prisons are not the right place for most young offenders,which is the primary reason many of them have no real chance for rehabilitation. Certainly young addicts may benefit most from this type of treatment facility and have a fighting chance against addiction. Homes and businesses are at risk from "criminals" no matter where they are located. You can look at the police reports that occur in Loganville right here on this news site. No community is ever going to escape the criminal element entirely. To create such a circle of fear at this point over a facility of this sort seems very harsh and unnecessary to me. There are several unknowns to be able to form an educated opinion at this point. As for me, I will never concede that at-risk youths should be reduced to a foregone conclusion of a career criminal. They haven't yet had enough time to have earned that stereo-type. I could never give up on kids like that..and that's what we are talking about here; kids.
Gladys Strickland December 11, 2012 at 08:32 PM
It is in our back yards - not yours. Some of you live five to eight miles away from this location. Put it in your back yard and you can call the Police when someone is breaking into your home and attacking your children.
Gladys Strickland December 11, 2012 at 09:45 PM
Christal: You live 7+ miles from this site. We are educated people but we also know that you don't need to invite trouble into your neighborhood. I am glad that son was saved by a place like this - hopefully it was in an appropriate location.
Gladys Strickland December 11, 2012 at 09:49 PM
Michelle: You live approx. 6.8 miles from this neighborhood. I don't say all these youths need to be in jail or prison - just don't want them within short walking distance to my home.
Gladys Strickland December 11, 2012 at 09:52 PM
Margaret: You live 8 miles from this neighborhood. I do think Monore would be a better location for this facility. Maybe near your neighborhood.
Gladys Strickland December 11, 2012 at 09:54 PM
Tammy: You are 5 miles away from this site. It does need to be somewhere - just not in my neighborhood. It would be better if their parents would take responsibility and teach them the life skills they need under their supervision. Just not in my neighborhood.
Gladys Strickland December 11, 2012 at 09:57 PM
Sharon: It is not supposed to be a "new" application on Thursday. If there are any changes, it must be re-submitted for a later time. No one seems to be 100% sure about anything about this proposal. Further study definitely needs to be done before they approve something of this nature. Thanks for getting the message out.
Michelle Couch December 11, 2012 at 11:29 PM
I lived in the City of Loganville back in 1990-1996: My home was robbed twice - there was no youth facility anywhere near and I was less than two blocks away from the police station. If you think your home is only in danger because this facility comes to fruition - you have a very false sense of security. I have long believed the philosophy that if you don't want "unknowns" developed around your home - then you need to move to your own 150-acre farm in the middle of no where - and even there, you're not any safer. I live in city limits on one of the busiest corner's in Grayson. If something is developed within the zoning ordinances and approved by the council, that's the reality of where I have chosen to live. I haven't yet formed an opinion about the location of this facility because I don't have all the necessary information to do so. When I do - I will form an educated opinion. I have several friends that live in the Loganville area - and I certainly wouldn't want them to live in harms way. Heck, my son's father and family live in Loganville. And it is always a possibility that I may move back to Loganville some day. I would not mark Loganville off as a great place to live simply because of this type facility. Don't misunderstand me; I fully support your right to oppose this project, take action and voice your opinion; I just feel that the scenarios being portrayed are more extreme than the reality, and that unnecessary panic is being created.
Gladys Strickland December 12, 2012 at 01:30 AM
I did not nor do I want to live on a 150 acre farm in the middle of no where when I moved to Loganville. However, I did check the crime statistics and they are better here than a lot of other locations that we looked into. By the time you have all the necessary information to form an opinion on this facility, it will be too late for us. We need to be proactive on the front end and not afterwards. No one is creating panic, just trying to get our elected officials to think about the safety of those who voted for them and will vote for them again if they make wise decisions based on truth and facts.
Tammy Osier December 12, 2012 at 01:47 AM
I agree that safety needs to be a major concern, but if it is a legitimate facility, run by professionals, it should be fine. In fact, law enforcement knows that it's there and will stay aware. When I worked in the juvenile boot camp where I was an instructor, we had many successes but the downfall to complete turnaround was that they went back into the environment that they came out of once the program was over for the night. We had discussed many times how much more we could do if it were residential. Our military style discipline was a good deterrent factor alongside the counseling and life skills application. National Guard Youth Challenge is residential and also a boot camp. As far as fear, any of the kids I've worked with can easily find out where I live. I have wondered many time if something might happen, especially when I was responsible for a probation violation that sent them back to jail, but nothing ever has. I've also discovered that being rural only hides crime really well (lot's of meth houses). Cities are seldom good for safety when they begin to get crowded, but being rural doesn't deter much either. Actually, there is a property about 3 miles from my house (Horizon properties) where someone is looking into creating a facility very similar to this. I'd have to know more about this before making a decision. I don't know who is running it or anything about them.
Concerned citizen December 12, 2012 at 01:50 AM
I live two miles from there. My parents live two miles and elderly grandparents are three miles. I don't want this in my neighborhood either.
Tammy Osier December 12, 2012 at 03:32 AM
Christal, I'm really glad for you and your son. While there are many who are criminals and probably will never change, there are many who come from good homes, yet got involved in drugs and couldn't stop on their own. There are also young people who's home life is so horrible that the street was the only hope they had. You'd be surprised at how appreciative kids who are in their situation through no fault of their own are thankful for the second chance. If a place is worth its salt, the career criminal won't last long in rehab, so probably will get weeded out pretty quick.

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