AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) – A local non-profit is suing the City of Augusta. The Hale Foundation filed a lawsuit in federal court after being denied a permit several times to open a drug and rehabilitation facility in a South Augusta neighborhood.
The lawsuit spells out why Hale Foundation feels Valor Station is critical for the health of first responders and it details why they say the city is wrong.
“This is not a situation where you actually already have it zoned for commercial. This is a situation where you’re actually going to have to vary from the zoning that exist,” said Georgia State Senator Harold Jones.
The Hale Foundation filed a 34 page lawsuit in District Court against the City of Augusta. The complaint spells out how first responders, who are at the forefront of public disruptions and disasters, face great risks. The suit said those risks can often lead to the need for a drug and rehabilitation center to address physical and mental health problems. The lawsuit specifically states they are at risk for stress, PTSD depression, substance use and suicide at an estimated rate that is 50 percent higher than the general population. But as the document states, the city denied a special exception permit twice that would have allowed Hale Foundation to open its proposed Valor Station on the 20 acre site. There were plans for buildings and dormitories for up to 30 people.
Sen. Jones added, “Zoning issues are very important. It’s not just necessarily that the residents don’t want it. The Commission also has to look at long term in the sense that once you start doing certain variances, regardless of what type of facility it was, how do you make the case for other variances too.”
“We don’t meed nobody to come up in here and change the culture of our neighborhood,” said Green Meadows Estates homeowner Clarence Kendrick to NewsChannel 6 back in August.
The suit claims the “not in my backyard” mentality is not only illegal, but perpetuates the growing health problem. And despite attempts to make the center exclusive and separate from the subdivision, commissioners still did not have the needed six votes to make Hale Foundation’s Valor Station dream a reality. So, the non-profit charges the denial violates The Fair Housing Act, The Americans with Disabilities Act, The Rehabilitation Act, and the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. constitution. But Georgia Senator Harold Jones said it could work out somewhere else.
“If it’s zoned for commercial, sure,” he said. “Something that’s zoned that way still has to go through the zoning process, but it makes it easier.”
Jones also said federal lawsuits tend to move through the legal process quickly, so we could hear a ruling within months or even weeks.