Some north Columbia residents on Tuesday fought off plans for a residential care facility in the Elmwood Park neighborhood.
The facility, meant to house a maximum of 10 people, including the elderly and people with disabilities, was proposed for a roughly 3,000-square-foot residential building at 1112 Price Ave., just off Main Street.
The Columbia Board of Zoning Appeals unanimously voted to turn down the plans after hearing neighbors’ objections. Residents told the board their neighborhood is on the rebound, with younger families moving in and businesses eyeing it for development.
John Gibson, president of the Elmwood Park neighborhood association, said the area was once “a blight on the city” and he has spent years trying to turn it around. Adding another facility similar to the existing transitional housing programs nearby would not help, Gibson said.
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Christ Central Ministries, which holds soup kitchens Sunday through Thursday, is just across Price Avenue from the proposed care facility, and the Transitions homeless shelter is just south of nearby Elmwood Avenue.
The neighborhood already has a terrible homeless and vagrant problem and the proposed facility “would be a detriment,” Gibson said.
Tom Amick, who lives next door to the proposed site, said he has lived in the neighborhood his entire life and has concerns about how the facility would impact safety.
“I was born next door, and I hope to die where I am now and be safe in the meantime,” Amick said.
Neighborhood residents also complained the facility’s plans did not specify important details, such as who would live there, how qualified the staff and administrators would be and more.
Earl Moorer and Judy Glover, the applicants for the facility, said they have never run a similar facility but that their staff would include up to seven workers with at least 20 years of health care experience. The facility would not accept clients with criminal, mental or emotional issues, Moorer said.
“We didn’t just wake up one day and decide this is what we wanted to do,” Moorer told the board.
In the board’s discussion, board member Calhoun McMeekin III called the proposal “reckless.”
“For me, there’s just nothing in this application that gives me any comfort whatsoever,” McMeekin said. “There’s not a floor plan. There’s not a business model. This is just, in my humble opinion, ‘Hey, let’s go find some people that have worked in the medical field and have a residential care facility.’ ”