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Planners hold up use permit
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The Liberty Consolidated Planning Commission decided not to decide the fate of a center for troubled women that wanted to use a former residence on McArthur Street.
Dr. Alicia Kirk of the Kirk Healing Center, in cooperation with local businessman Gary Dodd, plans to help troubled women get their lives back track. She wants to offer counseling, classes, training on financial management and similar programs.
The center has space on Dunlevie Road to house clients who need a place to stay. But the center is not a residential program.
"Anyone that comes there will only be there temporarily because our aim will be to get them a permanent home that they can live in on their own," Kirk explained.
And the home on McArthur Street, just off U.S. Highway 84, would be used primarily as office space and classrooms, Kirk told the planning commission.
But she does want to be able to allow a client to spend a night or two there, until they can be evaluated. These occasions, she said, would be when a woman needing assistance applied to the center on a Saturday or Sunday when it would be harder to get a professional to perform evaluations.
Numerous neighbors appeared at the LCPC meeting to object to the center's planned use of the McArthur Street building.
Some confusion was caused by the impression that the center was a rehab program for abusers of drugs or alcohol, a halfway house for parolees, or something similar.
Kirk said before, during and after the LCPC session that the center would not draw clients from prisons, treatment facilities, etc.
"Anyone needing rehabilitation must already be rehabbed before they come to us."
Judy Shippey, who had sold the house, said she thought the program was a good one and that she was thrilled to have her former home used for it. A retired educator, Shippey has volunteered to work at the center as soon as it starts up.
Shippey said, "It's not, absolutely not, a negative impact at all."
Shippey, Kirk and center co-founder the Rev. Nancy Kornegay spoke in favor of the special use of the McArthur Street building.
Neighbors were implacably opposed. Dr. Evetta Borden said she lived and worked in the area and opposed the petition. She pointed out that the area had no sidewalks and that lighting was inadequate. "I think we're just asking for trouble if we do this.
Dr. John Johnson said the idea of the center, while a good one, did not fit the neighborhood.
"Apples should be with apples; oranges should be with oranges," the dentist said.
Bill Goodwin pointed to his long record of leadership in community causes such as the Tri-County Women's Shelter, but said of the McArthur Street plan, "A lot of the citizens don't want it."
He foresees a decrease in property value of his and other homes in the area if the center is there.
Attorney Linnie Darden spoke several times, attempting to clarify whether a drug treatment center was planned and whether the request was for a residential use and if so, how many people should be allowed to reside in the fairly small home.
Finally LCPC Chairman Don Boyce said, "We've got a lot going on here . . . the need is critical, but we're not even close at this point to reaching agreement."
Boyce said the July meeting would be considered the first public hearing on the petition and urged all parties to determine specifically what their needs are and how they can be met.
LCPC member Susan Strickland summarized, "I think this is a great program and it is badly needed in Hinesville. But not in this heavy traffic area."
In other business the LCPC gave enthusiastic unanimous approval for the Melon Bluff nature preserve master plan and Boyce thanked Laura and Meredith Devendorf for their work.

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