The Crusader Newspaper Group

Group home for ex-offenders is good idea, but not here says Gary city council

Gary’s city council assured residents in the 300 block of Johnson Street they won’t have to share their neighborhood with a group home for non-violent ex-offenders. And they wanted to know why the city’s zoning officials approved it.

The council’s Planning Committee reviewed CPO 2022-106 at its meeting Monday night on December 5, 2022. They heard the petition of Mashone Parker-Wright to change the zoning for the single family home at 392 Johnson. Parker-Wright told the committee the group home would be a residential treatment center for homeless men, where they would receive drug and mental health counseling, casework, and employment search services for up to 12 months. .

Gary’s Zoning Department requires applicants, like Parker-Wright, asking for a Use Variance to notify nearby residents. Certified letters from the applicant must be sent to every resident within 100 feet of the property. The letter tells the proposed use of the property and the date of a Board of Zoning Appeals public hearing where residents have the opportunity to voice comments in opposition or in favor.

The letter also gives residents the option to show their approval or opposition to the zoning change, in writing. And mail their response to the BZA.

The December 5th hearing was the 2nd time Parker-Wright’s ordinance appeared on the Planning Committee’s agenda. Parker-Wright and Zoning Dept. staff were no-shows at the first Planning Committee hearing on the ordinance on October 11th.

The zoning staff did not appear at the December 5, 2022 meeting with Parker-Wright.

The BZA’s recommendation in favor of the zoning change did not please committee members. Councilwoman Tai Adkins, the chair of the Planning Committee said, “We’re missing a packet from the BZA, which states how many letters were sent out and what the responses were.”

In between the October 11th and December 5th meetings, the Planning Committee received a letter signed by residents in the 300 and 400 blocks of Johnson Street that they had not received any notification of the proposed group home.

One-by-one, planning committee members stated they could not support the zoning change. Their consensus — it’s a good idea to help the homeless but the Johnson street address was not the place for a group home.

Several neighborhood residents spoke at the Planning Committee hearing and all were in opposition to the group home.

Among them was Tony Cox, who said, “My home is directly across the street from 392 Johnson Street. I never received a letter. I talked to the neighbors directly on the side of me. I talked to everyone of them across the street from me. Of all the people I went to on Third & Johnson, only one received a letter.”

Parker-Wright, a mental health professional from Crown Point said she respected the feelings of the residents. “I won’t fight it. This is their neighborhood and their families.” She added, “At our first BZA meeting, we had to show proof that we sent the certified letters. We had to have receipts with the letters attached and that was in August.”

At the December 6, 2022 meeting of the full city council, the vote was 0-9 against the group home at 392 Johnson.

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