I would like to express my feelings about the residential living center for girls that is proposed for Ferron. I attended the Ferron City Planning and Zoning Commission meeting that was held on Jan. 10 and listened to what was presented there. My opinion is that Charlotte Williams is a very capable foster parent, but at the same time I don't think that putting level one youth in a residential home is the best situation for them. Living in a home environment with parents is totally different than living with a group of girls and having someone paid to supervise them.
One concern I have relates to Mrs. William's statement that she had to write in her business plan; which states she would accept adjudicated youth to receive funding, even though it wasn't her intentions to place them in her facility. My questions are: Is this honest business practice? Will she use the funding she receives in compliance with her requirements? If she does will she have to prove that she is housing that level of youth; and if not, then what?
Also, I have a concern referring to the zoning issue. I know a city plan is in the process of being put together, and that the particular area of town that is in question is not zoned for that type of business. We are allowing thousands of hours worth of work creating a plan go to waste if we are willing to change it at the drop of a hat. Is it in the best interest of the city or only in the interest of a few to make this change?
Yet another concern I hold is that of the safety of our people. I contacted the sheriff's department in Wayne County and asked them as to what their opinion was of this type of business; knowing they have a similar business in Loa, called Aspen Ranch. I was told that there are pros and cons.
The pros given were the income and employment effects in the area. The cons show they have a problem with the youth running and stealing vehicles. Recently an elderly couple bought a new minivan and had it stolen by two runners who totaled it. Also, the sheriff's department responds regularly to the "Ranch" for assault charges. The other major con given was that they have a problem there with drugs. It was suggested to me that this be "carefully considered and all options weighed" before we, as a city, make this "big decision." Aspen Ranch does house adjudicated youth, and therefore refers back to my first concern.
It is my feelings and opinion that the zoning should not be changed to allow this business, that we as a city seek out and entertain businesses that will operate with integrity and that will not put the safety of our citizens in jeopardy, or cause them to fear. I hope that Ferron City Zoning and Planning Commission and Ferron City Council don't make a decision of this caliber without the consent of the citizens of Ferron.