Thomasville Times Enterprise

September 24, 2013

Cairo citizens lose bid to stop group home

Susanne Reynolds

CAIRO — At Monday night’s Cairo City Council meeting, a group of upset citizens lost its battle against the approval of the Sunrise Community group home permit for the mentally disabled in its neighborhood.

Since last year, the City of Cairo has been in a lawsuit with Sunrise Community of Georgia Inc., a non-profit organization that houses mentally disabled individuals. The organization filed suit against the city after it denied the request to open the home at 35 14th Ave. Two group homes have already been established in Cairo.

A public hearing was held by the council on Monday. Cairo residents expressed their concerns against approving the permit for the group home. Some of their concerns were based on past experiences with group homes, includingpeople coming onto their property and violation of their basic rights.

Citizens also blamed the issue on reduced funding and the closing of Southwestern State Hospital. Members of the Northwest Neighborhood Association were at the meeting to express their concerns about a corporate entity buying property in small town such as Cairo.

They informed the council they were not opposed to families with handicapped family members living next door, but they are concerned about a “for-profit business” in a residential neighborhood with multiple clients, as well as lower property values. All of these concerns leave long-term residents feeling frustrated and confused.

Ed Gravenstein, member of the Northwest Neighborhood Association, said, “The American Disabilities Act will trump anything as far as zoning. It’s been an interesting experience for the neighborhood. This is from a business standpoint, though. We are not against families who have family members with disabilities.”

Jim Garland, attorney at Alexander & Vann,LLP in Thomasville, has been hired to defend the City of Cairo. He explained to the Cairo residents that the city would be doing what was in the best interest of the city. Garland also explained the federal issues at hand.

One is the federal Fair Housing Amendment. There is a clause that prohibits, “discrimination in housing on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, familial status and disability. One type of disability discrimination prohibited by the act is the refusal to make reasonable accommodations in rules, policies, practices or services when such accommodations may be necessary to afford a person with a disability the equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling.”

See Wednesday's edition for more details.