Columbia County Planning Commission agreed Thursday night to a modified version of a plan that could expand a Martinez assisted-living home.
The commission voted unanimously to approve an amended Special-1 zoning for Assisted Living Care LLC, on Marshall Street, after the home's owners requested that substance abuse be removed from their scope of treatment.
The possibility of treating substance-abuse patients had been an issue of contention among some residents who live near the home.
The new proposal, which must now go before the Columbia County Commission on Aug. 21 for a final vote, will allow for the treatment of those in wheelchairs in addition to the elderly clients the facility already serves. It also would permit the construction of a fourth building on the property specifically designed for new wheelchair-bound patients if a pilot program for them is successful.
"It is nice to see the drug abusers and alcoholics are not going to be in the neighborhood," said neighbor Gary Bennett, adding he still opposes the care home's plans to expand for traffic reasons.
At a June 21 meeting, the planning commission denied a request by the care home's owners to allow for the treatment of substance abuse, severe physical deficiencies and developmental disorders in young people. Neighbors voiced their oppositions to allowing substance abusers and alcoholics into the neighborhood facility.
At that time, the issue was sent to the county commission, which sent the matter back to the planning commission to deal with a new request to remove the substance abuse language.
Commissioner Brett McGuire said the original request was denied because of neighbors' opposition and the lack of a well-defined plan for the Georgia Department of Community Health program to house the physically handicapped. With a written plan to implement the program and no concerns about the substance abuse treatment, McGuire made the motion at Thursday night's meeting.
Bennett expressed concerns over the facility's expansion and participation program, saying it might cause more traffic. Ellen Goldberg, a care home partner, said most of the changes would be internal, however, modifying one of the three existing buildings to accommodate wheelchairs and the needs of wheelchair-bound clients who would be served in a test-run program.
"But if it does work, and we believe it will, then we would like the opportunity to expand," Goldberg said. Many physically handicapped wheelchair-bound people live in institutions. "They would like to live in the community, have social interaction with other people. But they do need to have a facility that can accommodate the wheelchair and accommodate their special needs."
The state program will allow several residents to live collectively and share the resources of the staff and accommodations, Goldberg said.
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