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Doll’s House dealt zoning delay

A couple working to locate a transitional home for women say they will appeal a Brookhaven Board of Adjustments decision that represents a roadblock to their plans.

     Johnny and Stephanie Turner of Doll’s House are attempting to get an exemption to the city’s zoning requirement for the home that would be located in the former Serenity House on North Church Street.

     However, after neighbors voiced concerns about the home, the adjustments board voted last Thursday to not recommend an exception to the city’s zoning regulations. The recommendation will be sent to the Brookhaven Board of Aldermen, which have a final say in the matter.

     Board of Adjustments Chairperson Joyce Asken said their ruling was based on the potential impact the Doll’s House would have on the area.

     “We felt, as people said, it would not have a positive impact on the neighborhood,” she said. “A number of people got up and voiced their opinions. I think you’d have to be a property owner there to understand what they were thinking.”

     The problem is the North Church Street area is zoned R1, which is for single-family homes only. What the Turners are trying to do is a home for multiple families, viewed the same way as an apartment complex, which would require either a change of the zoning ordinance to R3 or an exception.

     Despite the ruling, the Turners will appeal and hope to have the decision reversed.

     The Turners said they are just trying to establish a home for women who are in need of help so they may better themselves, which includes women recently released from prison as well as women who have been divorced or abused. Their research shows a need exists in Lincoln County for such a facility.

     “This is for women in need of help who are non-violent offenders,” said Johnny Turner. “They just need help transitioning and getting back into the public life. They’re often mothers and we’re trying to rehabilitate them.”

     Asken said it appeared everyone in attendance thought what the Turners are trying to do is good, but it was the location that bothered them.

     “I don’t think there was anyone there that didn’t think it was something good,” she said. “The people there just didn’t want it in their neighborhood. That was there main concern.”

     Johnny Turner said people are too focused on the prison aspect of their ministries.

     “The reality is the people that need help are already here,” he said. “You can provide a place to help them, or they’ll come in anyway. We want to be a gate to help, not bring a nuisance to the community.”

     Stephanie Turner said if the North Church Street address is not where they go, they will keep looking. She maintained that Lincoln County is in need of a transitional home for women.

     “If that’s not the place, we want to find the place,” she said. “And if not (North Church Street) then where? If not now, then when?”

     The Turners stressed they will be living in the residence along with the women they are helping rehabilitate and teach skills. They said they do understand where people may be concerned.

     “I can absolutely see where neighbors might be concerned,” said Stephanie Turner. “We will monitor the ladies. Ones from the prisons will come with a parole officer (contact). If they don’t want to stay, we can call their parole officer and have them removed. We understand the concerns of the neighborhood.”

     The Turners’ appeal will be heard sometime on or after Sept. 18, the date for the next aldermen meeting. The city board could take up the matter then or it could be returned to board of adjustments.