LEETONIA- Concerned village residents filled council chambers for the regular Village Council meeting Wednesday night seeking answers regarding a proposed adult group home in the former Presbyterian church at High and Elm streets.
The group provided council with a list of questions and concerns, noting issues such as safety and well being, property values and traffic congestion. But foremost those in attendance questioned village administration about an apparent evasiveness on the issue.
"We are here this evening in hopes that members of council, the mayor or someone can address these concerns with more information, insight or details than what has been presented thus far to the community," said Todd Walters, speaking on behalf of the group.
Concerns arose within the community after the proposed home's owner Les Crowe and his partners attended the Feb. 6 council meeting to explain his plans. Mayor Artie Altomare stated that he invited Crowe to the next council meeting (on Feb. 6) as soon as he found out what the plans were for the building and that Crowe did attend that meeting. He also noted that Crowe has not violated any laws or ordinances.
Crowe explained that he has been in communication with Zoning Inspector John Rydarowicz for "months," but that he has not tried to hide his intentions from anyone, speaking freely about the project with anyone wishing to question him.
Crowe further explained that the proposed facility cannot be licensed until it passes all inspections and is issued an occupancy permit. He said he can legally work with the local zoning and fire departments for those inspections.
He reiterated that nothing has been finalized at this point, but that the facility will be licensed through the state and regulated by the Ohio Department of Mental Health.
Above all, though, Crowe encouraged community involvement, stating that the facility will have an open door for people to engage with the residents. He said he hopes to put an end to all the negativity surrounding the proposed facility and stop the stigma of mental illness.
"All we're asking is please be involved in what we're doing here," he said. "Get a better understanding of the [residents]."
Some in attendance responded that at that point, after the facility has been opened, it will be too late to do anything if they don't approve of the facility.
The proposed facility will house up to 16 residents with mental health disorders who are independent, high-functioning individuals with no history of violence or crimes of a sexual nature, according to Crowe.
"We would not jeopardize the other residents in the home," he said. "They need a clean environment."
Crowe said the residents are people who suffer from disorders such as depression and forms of schizophrenia and come to the group home to receive guidance in everyday routines such as preparing meals, taking medications and doing the laundry.
The group of village residents viewed the council meeting as an inadequate venue to have their questions answered and scheduled a meeting with Crowe for 6:30 p.m. Feb. 27 at the Leetonia Community Public Library.
In other business council hired Karen Jones of Leetonia as a part-time as needed dispatcher.
The next regular council meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. March 6 at Village Hall, preceded by a Water/Sewer Committee meeting at 6 p.m.
Kevin Howell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org