Planning commission denies transitional housing request

The Pine Bluff Planning Commission on Tuesday unanimously denied a request from a self-described former drug addict to utilize a duplex unit in a 910 W. 15th Ave. residence he occupies as transitional housing for up to five recovering drug and/or alcohol abusers.

Ron Jefferson told the panel that he already has several roommates in recovery but desired to move into the duplex’s currently unoccupied unit while his clients stayed in the other. No business or operation plan was submitted with his application to the city, according to Jerre George of the Southeast Arkansas Regional Planning Commission.

Jefferson said the duplex owner, who wasn’t identified, has given him permission for the living arrangements and operating a transitional facility there. He said that once his clients had completed “all phases” of financial, personal and spiritual development and demonstrated “competent living skills,” they would possess “more than the basic resources for living independently with a level of growth that will allow them to become and maintain productive citizenship.”

However, George pointed out in recommending the request’s denial, “There are no programs (at Jefferson’s facility) being offered to assist the addicted individual into staying drug/alcohol free or to assist them into ‘transitioning’ into mainstream society.”

She noted, too, that the facility is unlicensed.

Jefferson said that he would be offering his clients an opportunity to recover in a “clean, safe place” and told commissioners it’s better to attempt to prevent possible problems with recovering addicts than to respond to troubles after the fact.

Commissioner Gordon Reese praised Jefferson for both his recovery and desire to assist others. “But I think you’re asking a little too much of us,” Reese added.

George and commissioners discussed the increasing number of transitional facility requests the panel has recently been receiving, and George said she would look into associated licensing, operating and funding matters.

In other business, the commission unanimously approved the rezoning of 1115 Commerce Road from residential to neighborhood commercial. The structure there was constructed and used as a church for many years, but now houses the administrative offices of the VP Buildings business. When VP purchased the building some time back, the commission authorized VP to house its offices there.

George said a zoning change was needed, however.

“It is better for the title and for insurance purposes for it to be properly zoned rather than to be a legally existing non-conforming use,” said George.