Residents Object to Plans for a Transitional Youth Home in Walton County

Plans for a transitional home for troubled youths in Walton County has residents in the surrounding Loganville community up in arms.

At 6 p.m. Thursday, the Walton County Planning Commission will hear arguments for and against a transitional home for troubled youth from Walton and Barrow counties. If approved at the January Board of Commissioners meeting, the 20-acre farm would be located on Hodges Road, in the Loganville portion of unincorporated Walton County.

Residents in the surrounding neighborhood, both inside and outside the Loganville city limits, intend to show up in force to voice their objects to the home.

A petition has been circulating in the adjoining neighborhoods, including in the Pines at Tara subdivision off Tom Brewer Road, urging the BOC to deny the rezone request, thereby putting an end for plans to bring the facility to the area. The property is currently zoned for a funeral home.

According to the application made by the Rev. Bengie Evans, only 5.16 of the 20.4 acres would be used for the transitional housing. Named The Weekend Academy, Evans has plans for the facility to house youth, primarily males, between the ages of 16 and 24. This would be a faith-based program incorporating the Twelve Steps to Wellness Program. TWA also has partnered with the US Department of Agriculture for this project with plans to incorporate a farming component into the program. During their transition, the youth would be training in agriculture and basic farming methods. According to the application, the produce generated by this training would be used for the local poor and elderly. It would include a garden and raising of cattle.

Residents, however, are concerned about locating troubled youth in what is primarily a residential area. The Walton County Sheriff’s Office appears to share some of those concerns, stating in the application that if approved it would likely generate more calls from the surrounding community.

Residents in the Pines at Tara said the community is mostly retired couples with grandchildren or young couples with children. Residents have said they feel they will have to install alarms in their homes.

In the petition circulating in objection to the transitional home, some of the concerns raised include:

  • The safety and security of residents and property in surrounding neighborhoods and residential areas.
  • Concern for safety of youth, adults and senior citizens participating nearby in various activities at West Walton Recreational Fields, meridian Park, West Walton Senior Center, Loganville High School, subdivisions.
  • Increased calls to WCSO and Loganville Police Department by alarms, in many instances likely to be false alarms, which already generate a high rate of call outs.
  • Concerns over the age range of the troubled youths targeted going up to age 24 and that although the applications says “primarily males,” it doesn’t stipulate only males.
  • The proven history of increased crime rates and lowering property values in areas where facilities of this nature are established.

Other concerns include the fact that the petition doesn’t appear to include plans for security fences, cameras or alarms by the applicant. Although it is for misdemeanor offenders, residents point to cases where felony offences are sometimes pleaded down to misdemeanors.

The issue will be on the City of Loganville work session agenda Monday, Dec. 10 as well as on the Walton County Planning Commission meeting at the government buildings in Monroe on Dec. 13, 2012. It will come before the BOC on Jan. 8, 2013.

Michelle Couch December 11, 2012 at 11:29 PM
I lived in the City of Loganville back in 1990-1996: My home was robbed twice - there was no youth facility anywhere near and I was less than two blocks away from the police station. If you think your home is only in danger because this facility comes to fruition - you have a very false sense of security. I have long believed the philosophy that if you don't want "unknowns" developed around your home - then you need to move to your own 150-acre farm in the middle of no where - and even there, you're not any safer. I live in city limits on one of the busiest corner's in Grayson. If something is developed within the zoning ordinances and approved by the council, that's the reality of where I have chosen to live. I haven't yet formed an opinion about the location of this facility because I don't have all the necessary information to do so. When I do - I will form an educated opinion. I have several friends that live in the Loganville area - and I certainly wouldn't want them to live in harms way. Heck, my son's father and family live in Loganville. And it is always a possibility that I may move back to Loganville some day. I would not mark Loganville off as a great place to live simply because of this type facility. Don't misunderstand me; I fully support your right to oppose this project, take action and voice your opinion; I just feel that the scenarios being portrayed are more extreme than the reality, and that unnecessary panic is being created.
Gladys Strickland December 12, 2012 at 01:30 AM
I did not nor do I want to live on a 150 acre farm in the middle of no where when I moved to Loganville. However, I did check the crime statistics and they are better here than a lot of other locations that we looked into. By the time you have all the necessary information to form an opinion on this facility, it will be too late for us. We need to be proactive on the front end and not afterwards. No one is creating panic, just trying to get our elected officials to think about the safety of those who voted for them and will vote for them again if they make wise decisions based on truth and facts.
Tammy Osier December 12, 2012 at 01:47 AM
I agree that safety needs to be a major concern, but if it is a legitimate facility, run by professionals, it should be fine. In fact, law enforcement knows that it's there and will stay aware. When I worked in the juvenile boot camp where I was an instructor, we had many successes but the downfall to complete turnaround was that they went back into the environment that they came out of once the program was over for the night. We had discussed many times how much more we could do if it were residential. Our military style discipline was a good deterrent factor alongside the counseling and life skills application. National Guard Youth Challenge is residential and also a boot camp. As far as fear, any of the kids I've worked with can easily find out where I live. I have wondered many time if something might happen, especially when I was responsible for a probation violation that sent them back to jail, but nothing ever has. I've also discovered that being rural only hides crime really well (lot's of meth houses). Cities are seldom good for safety when they begin to get crowded, but being rural doesn't deter much either. Actually, there is a property about 3 miles from my house (Horizon properties) where someone is looking into creating a facility very similar to this. I'd have to know more about this before making a decision. I don't know who is running it or anything about them.
Concerned citizen December 12, 2012 at 01:50 AM
I live two miles from there. My parents live two miles and elderly grandparents are three miles. I don't want this in my neighborhood either.
Tammy Osier December 12, 2012 at 03:32 AM
Christal, I'm really glad for you and your son. While there are many who are criminals and probably will never change, there are many who come from good homes, yet got involved in drugs and couldn't stop on their own. There are also young people who's home life is so horrible that the street was the only hope they had. You'd be surprised at how appreciative kids who are in their situation through no fault of their own are thankful for the second chance. If a place is worth its salt, the career criminal won't last long in rehab, so probably will get weeded out pretty quick.


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