John Nix

Attorney John Andrew Nix addresses the Monroe City Council on behalf of Pyramid Healthcare on Tuesday night, Sept. 8, 2020, in Monroe, Ga.

MONROE, Ga. — The owners of an inpatient addiction recovery program want to bring their services to Monroe, but they’ll have to wait a while longer to see if that’s possible.

The City Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to table the appeal of Planning and Code Director Patrick Kelley’s denial of a request to convert the Sparrow Hill Inn at 410 E. Church St. to an inpatient facility for people with substance abuse issues.

Pyramid Healthcare operates Silver Ridge Recovery near Asheville, North Carolina. It wants to bring the same model to Monroe for adults 35 and older who are struggling with addiction to drugs or alcohol.

Joy Gilliam, co-owner of the Sparrow Hill Inn since it opened in 2014, said she has “a personal passion for this program.”

Gilliam told the council she thinks its size — 12 beds, as opposed to the larger Ridgeview Institute on the old Walton Regional Medical Center campus — fit the neighborhood.

“Small group is where so much interaction takes place,” she said. “This provides an opportunity for those people to share with one another.”

Gilliam said the program encourages visits by the patients’ families, which would in turn benefit the local economy.

“We thought it would be an absolutely perfect buyer for Sparrow Hill Inn,” she said.

Cheryl Larson, who lives on East Church Street, disagreed.

“To me, putting something like that in the middle of this neighborhood is just totally uncalled for,” she said.

Samuel Davis, who lives two doors down from her, has a growing family and also is concerned.

“My family and I love living on Church Street … but I came to say I oppose this appeal,” Davis said.

He was disappointed by the way the appeal was made, which bypassed the Planning Commission and, as a result, the typical notification.

The applicants later addressed that, saying they appealed Kelley’s ruling straight to the City Council out of a belief this wasn’t a request for a variance.

Instead, it was an appeal that the interpretation of the zoning is incorrect.

Sally Fielder, who lives next door to the Sparrow Hill, said she was worried about the impact of having people who are addicted to alcohol and drugs, especially when there are already treatment facilities like Ridgeview Institute – Monroe and Twin Lakes Recovery Center between Monroe and Social Circle.

“If we think this won’t be a nuisance, read the police blotter,” she said. “They pick up one or two a week that won’t take their medicine.”

Allisa Hall said she’s seen improvements to the area since moving to the 500 block of East Church Street about six years ago.

“It’s been really nice to be here,” she said, “and I would like that nice quality of life I’m experiencing now to continue.”

But attorney John Andrew Nix, representing Pyramid Healthcare, said the facility would be a positive addition.

“I don’t think I’ve ever stood in front of a council before to ask for a decision that was for a better product,” he said. “It sure beats a convenience store or a horse farm.”

Nix said the city’s interpretation of its zoning, barring “sanitoriums,” was in danger of violating a protected class. And, he said he thinks the proposed facility would have less impact on the neighborhood than Sparrow Hill Inn does.

Councilman Norman Garrett said he, like others on the council and in the neighborhood, only found out about the issue hours before the meeting.

He made a motion to table the matter for a month, and that passed unanimously.

The council meets Oct. 6 in a work session and Oct. 13 with a regular meeting.

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