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Update: City Council approves Dismas Charities permit for halfway house

A Cumberland County Superior Court judge on Monday remanded the case back to the City Council. The state appeals court has ruled that the council must approve a special-use permit for a federal halfway house off Cain Road.

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The Fayetteville City Council on Monday night approved a special-use permit for a nonprofit organization that wants to build a halfway house for federal prisoners off Cain Road near Bragg Boulevard.

A Cumberland County Superior Court judge ruled earlier Monday that the council must consider the permit for Dismas Charities.

Judge Mark Sternlicht’s decision was expected to be rubber stamped because the state Court of Appeals remanded the matter back to Superior Court on March 1 with an order that it be returned to the City Council for approval.

But Fayetteville lawyer Michael Porter, who represents Dismas Charities, urged Sternlicht to allow the Clerk of Court to approve the special-use permit before the council meeting at 7 p.m.  

“We have great reservations of what the City Council intends to do tonight,” Porter said, noting that some council members have suggested that the project could be blocked under the city’s nuisance abatement policy. Porter also said every day that passes costs Dismas money in construction and other fees.

City Attorney Karen McDonald assured Sternlicht that the council had every intention of approving the permit at Monday night’s meeting – the appeals court gave no alternative.

The lawyers agreed that a few conditions attached to the permit will be worked out before Sternlicht signs his order to remand the permit back to the council.

Dismas Charities, a national nonprofit organization, plans to build a 100-bed re-entry center for federal offenders nearing the end of their sentences. The offenders would be free to leave the halfway house to go to work or to school.

Residents of the Greenwood Homes, Shamrock, Cumberland Heights, Eutaw and Scotty Hills neighborhoods have fought the permit, saying they are concerned about their safety and their property values.

The City Council denied the permit by a 5-4 vote in February 2020, but Dismas appealed the matter to Superior Court, which upheld the decision.  Dismas then took the case to the Court of Appeals, which ordered the Superior Court to remand the case back to the council for approval. 

The issue would never have gone to court had Councilwoman Courtney Banks-McLaughlin voted the way she said she had intended two years ago. Shortly after that council meeting, Banks-McLaughlin said she had meant to vote in favor of the permit. The city’s Zoning Commission had recommended the permit be approved.  

The proposed site of the halfway house is 901-905 Cain Road, next to Logan’s Body Shop and near Bragg Boulevard. Duplex apartments stand behind the property, and the Shamrock and Scotty Hills neighborhoods lie farther up Cain Road.

The special-use permit was added to the council’s consent agenda Monday night, which was approved on a 6-4 vote.

Mayor Mitch Colvin and council members Antonio Jones, Johnny Dawkins, Larry Wright, Chris Davis and Banks-McLaughlin voted in favor. Council members Shakeyla Ingram, Kathy Jensen, D.J. Haire and Yvonne Kinston voted in opposition.

Staff writer Michael Futch contributed to this report.

Greg Barnes is an investigative reporter for CityView TODAY. He can be reached at gregbarnes401@gmail.com. Have a news tip? Email news@CityViewTODAY.com.


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