JERSEY — Former Atlanta Brave Otis Nixon’s plan to open a rehabilitation center in the area was met with heated opposition Monday, leaving the future of the project in doubt.
The meeting was organized after residents began expressing concerns over Nixon’s proposed conditional use zoning request at his lease-purchase property at 3330 Dally Road with the county, which will be heard Dec. 2.
The application is for the 25-acre property which currently has two single-family residences and two small barns. The purpose, according to his conditional use application, is for “residential care with very light mental or substance abuse problems, supervision counseling to restore them back to the community as productive citizens.”
From the onset of the meeting, which drew more than 50 residents of area, Nixon was forced to answer questions about the purpose of the facility, including who will be living there?, would the residents be convicted felons and, if so, what would they have been convicted of?
Residents wondered, if something went wrong, who would be accountable? They also were concerned the facility is too far away from police service in case of an emergency.
Nixon told residents he did not mean to say those at the facility — part of his On-Track Center Housing projects and Otis Nixon Foundation — would be in need of mental observation and drug rehabilitation and the center would be more of a “graduation” home for those who have succeeded in his other centers.
Tony Smith, whose wife Shannon, is leading the opposition to the project, told Nixon he hasn’t been forthright with the community regarding his plans and if he didn’t mean for the center to be one dealing with psychological and drug issues, why did he put it in his application?
“Why don’t you just re-write it instead of blowing smoke?” Smith said.
Attorney and resident Dale Wren said the community is prepared to fight the proposal and urged residents to stay persistent if they want to convince the planning commission and county officials that the project is not a benefit to the community.
But by the end of the meeting, Nixon said he had heard the concerns of the community and will decide whether or not to move forward with it.
“I am re-evaluating,” Nixon said. “If you see something you don’t like, I am willing to look at it. This ain’t done yet.
“After tonight, it might not be in Jersey. It’s not the commission that is going to change my mind, it’s not (Sheriff Joe Chapman) who is going to change my mind, it’s you who will change my mind. I had a change of heart tonight. I need to go back. I’ve heard your crying — I’ve heard what you’re saying. Give me chance to address it. I’m almost to the point of saying, ‘No.’”
However, Shannon Smith is still skeptical.
“We’re leaving a lot of power in your hands — I don’t want the power to be in your hands because you seem like a man who has a change of heart a lot,” she said.
It is still up to Nixon to go through with the project or not and up to the planning commission to approve the permit.
The commission will meet Dec. 2 and the request will come before the board of commissioners Jan. 4, 2011.
For more information on the opposition to the zoning request, visit www.opposerehabhouse.blogspot.com. For more information on Nixon's On-Track Ministries, visit www.otisnixon.com and click on the link on the left-hand side.