Bill Kirby Jr.: ‘Place Their Safety First,’ Advocate Pleads

Mary P. King acknowledges she may not reside in Fayetteville, but that isn’t holding her back from joining with residents of Greenwood Homes in their effort to prevent a proposed Dismas Charities halfway house for federal inmates off Bragg Boulevard.

            Call Mrs. King, if you will, a long-distance stakeholder.

            “A friend in Fayetteville forwarded your column regarding the continuing proposal for a halfway house on Cain Road,” Mrs. King, of Lexington, South Carolina, says in an email about our CityView Insider of March 23 noting that residents of Cumberland Heights, Eutaw, Scotty Hills and Greenwood Homes have hired a lawyer to squelch the halfway house. “Although not a resident, I am a frequent visitor to Fayetteville. We have a daughter, grandson with a wife and two children, as well as friends in the Greenwood Homes area. They are all homeowners with financial investments in their homes. Our daughter and grandson have been residents of that neighborhood since 1998, and this is ‘their home.’”

            Dismas Charities, circa 1964, is attempting to build the halfway house on 1.6 acres of wooded property near the neighborhoods that would operate as a transition for federal prisoners serving out their sentences, and those inmates would be allowed to hold jobs and provide community service by day and return to the house afterwards. All still would be monitored by halfway house security 24-7.

            The Fayetteville Zoning Commission first approved the special use permit for Dismas Charities only to see the Fayetteville City Council deny that request in a 5-4 vote, thanks to council members D.J. Haire, Tisha Waddell, Shakela Ingram, Courtney Banks-McLaughlin and Yvonne Kinston. Mayor Mitch Colvin, Johnny Dawkins, Larry Wright and Chris Davis voted in favor of the permit, with Mayor Pro Tem Kathy Keefe Jensen recusing herself because Jensen and her family own a nearby business property.

            Later, Courtney Banks-McLaughlin, according to published reports, said she would have voted along with Colvin, Dawkins, Wright and Davis, but the freshman councilwoman said she misunderstood the motion.

 

‘Nothing Illegal,’ But …

            Today, Dismas Charities is appealing the City Council decision to the N.C. Court of Appeals.

            “It’s not over,” George Turner, who lives near Cain Road, says, and residents of Greenwood Homes, Cumberland Heights, Eutaw and Scotty Hills have hired a Raleigh lawyer to continue the fight.

            He says legal fees are expensive, and residents are asking for donations to assist them in paying for the legal counsel. Donations, according to Rafael Rivera, a resident leading the opposition group, may be mailed to  “Citizens against Dismas” at 1811 Manteo St., Fayetteville, N.C. 28303.

 

            “Citizens need to put pressure on their City Council members to add a limit of occupants and a legal definition of a halfway house to the UDO,” Turner says about this municipality’s Unified Development Ordinance, “and it needs to be done now. Whatever the outcome of this situation, other companies in the same business as Dismas are aware of our lack of terminology in the UDO and will likely want to bring other prison facilities to our town.

            “City Council is bogged down with red tape and conversations that leads to nothing.  All the while, Fayetteville is an open city for more of this type of business.

            “Council’s job is to protect us, and they are failing,” says Turner, a former chairman of the Fayetteville Zoning Commission and on-and-off member since 1996. “To be clear, no one involved with this situation broke any laws or did wrong. The laws here simply don’t exist today to protect us. Other cities in N.C. have a limit on occupants and some type of definition for this type of business in their design ordinances.”

 

Epilogue

            Back to Mary P. King, the woman who has family in the Greenwood Homes neighborhood.

            “Surely, City Council can find another site for this facility other than in the middle of a densely-populated area of homes occupied by tax-paying citizens, whose home value will likely diminish should this proposal receive final approval,” Mrs. King says. “I urge all of those who think this is a good idea to consider the current law-abiding citizens in these neighborhoods and their welfare, and please place their safety and interests above that of profit-making self-interests.” 

            Stay tuned.

            As George Turner says, “It’s not over” for residents of Cumberland Heights, Eutaw, Scotty Hills and Greenwood Homes, all who call their neighborhoods home.

            Bill Kirby Jr. can be reached at bkirby@cityviewnc.com, billkirby49@gmail.com or 910-624-1961