Bill Kirby Jr.: Residents Still Fighting Halfway House Proposal

Say hello to folks like George Turner, Rafael Rivera and Bobby Grantham.

            They just want to live peacefully in their neighborhoods near Cain Road, the same Cain Road off Bragg Boulevard and where a proposal for a halfway house for federal inmates is afoot in this city under the banner of Dismas Charities, circa 1964, and headquartered in Louisville, Kentucky.

            “It is classified as a penal institution,” Grantham, 65, was saying in March of 2020 after a meeting of neighbors held at the Kiwanis Recreation Center in opposition to the nonprofit halfway house proposed for 1.6 acres of undeveloped, wooded property at 901-905 Cain Road. “Dismas Charities gets $100 a day for every head in that house. These people don’t care about your property or your kids. They only care about the money.”

            Dismas Charities, according to its website, would counter-argue with Grantham, saying that it offers an opportunity to “ensure successful re-integration of our residents” back into society, and connecting offenders with thousands of job opportunities every year. Those who would otherwise be confined to prison the website says, reside in the centers, where they work, provide valuable community service, and pay taxes, child support, fines or other restitution.
            Idle rhetoric, folks like George Turner, Rafael Rivera and Bobby Grantham contend, and so do their neighbors. The good news for residents of  Greenwood Homes, Cumberland Heights, Eutaw and Scotty Hills is that the Fayetteville City Council rejected the special permit request for Dismas Charities to build the halfway house.

            The bad news for residents is that Dismas Charities apparently is appealing the council’s decision for denial that was led by D.J. Haire, Tisha Waddell, Shakela Ingram, Courtney Banks-McLaughlin and Yvonne Kinston. Voting for the special permit was Johnny Dawkins, Chris Davis, Larry Wright and Mayor Mitch Colvin. Mayor Pro Tem Kathy Keefe Jensen did not vote because she owns commercial property near the proposed site. And something else, Courtney Banks-McLaughlin says she voted in error because, according to published reports, the freshman councilwoman misunderstood the motion for denial.

.           “Potentially, all neighborhoods will be affected since the federal offenders will be permitted to leave the facility,” Rivera was saying Monday. “Dismas appealed on August 3. Judge Tally affirmed the decision.”

            That would be Cumberland County Superior Court Judge Mary Ann Tally, and Rivera says Dismas now is appealing the case in the N.C. Court of Appeals in Raleigh.

 

Financial Struggle

            Meanwhile, residents in opposition still are fighting, and the fight is a financial strain on residents.
            “I am asking for your support in a situation that a group of us have been fighting for some time now,” George Turner writes in an email.  “We discovered that in January 2020, a federal prison contractor was working to build a 100-bed federal prison facility on Cain Road in the center of Fayetteville. They are calling this a halfway house to work around our current UDO (Unified Development Ordinance) zoning that does not address this type of facility.
            “This facility will house 100 federal prisoners currently serving an active sentence for some crime. These prisoners will be allowed to check themselves out of the facility on a daily basis with the intent of them going to FTCC, working a job or shopping as they see fit. That’s 100 federal criminals walking our streets unsupervised every day.
            “Our group has hired an attorney from Raleigh and the fight to stop this is on-going today,” Turner writes in his email.  “Please consider donating funds to help pay the attorney fees. Any donation will be appreciated.”
            Turner says donations may be mailed to Rafael Rivera, 1811 Manteo St, Fayetteville, N.C.  28303 or to Turner at P.O. Box 36053, Fayetteville, N.C.  28303.  And if you need more information on the matter, call him at 910-221-4095. 
            “I have a brochure at my office that explains the group planning this and what we have done so far if you would like a copy,” he writes. “I can’t imagine how anyone will benefit from federal prisoners freely walking the streets of our city unsupervised.  Your safety is at stake. Please help.”

            All donations, Rivera says, will be earmarked in a dedicated account for legal fees only.

 

‘It’s Not Over’          

 

            Turner described the scenario Monday as a tangled web.

            “Tyson Commercial Properties was the sole brokerage that put the deal together for Dismas to buy the land that was for sale by the owner,” he says. “It has been difficult for our group to raise funds, because most citizens think this was denied by City Council, so that means it’s over.

            “It is not over.

            “Dismas first appealed to District Court and is now appealing that decision to the Court of Appeals. We have been spending money with our attorney, Ben Kuhn with Ragsdale-Liggett in Raleigh. He has done a great job, but he is not cheap. That’s why we sent the email asking for donations. The more you look at this situation, the worse it gets. All of Fayetteville will be affected by federal inmates walking around freely in our city. The inmates are allowed to walk out unsupervised daily and can be anywhere you will go. 

            Think about it,” Turner says.

 

Epilogue

 

            Some of us don’t have to think about it, Mr. Turner, because it is the wrong location when it comes to residential neighborhoods and not sensitive or empathetic to Greenwood Homes, Cumberland Heights, Eutaw and Scotty Hills residents.

            Many of us are not insensitive to helping those who have committed crimes and getting them back on their feet and count me among them. Not only me, but even some residents opposed to the halfway house.

            But, residents of Greenwood Homes, Cumberland Heights, Eutaw and Scotty Hills argue, not in our backyards we call home.

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