A residential treatment center for girls that is proposed to be opened in Ferron has the entire town talking. At the Ferron planning and zoning commission meeting on Feb. 19, many residents were talking to the commission.
Pine Meadows is proposed to be a treatment center for teenage girls to be located on South State Street. The facility will be a center for schooling and therapy for girls with behavioral problems and will have 24-7 supervision. Many Ferron residents are caught up in ideas of the potential for problems with girls running away from the center and causing problems in the town.
In 2007, Charlotte Williams, of Orangeville, applied for a business license at a planning and zoning meeting. This license application could not be reviewed or granted due to the fact that a quorum was not present at the meeting. Williams then went to the Ferron City Council and they approved the license on the condition the planning and zoning commission approved it according to the zoning regulations.
From that time to the present, members of the planning and zoning commission have been researching and conferring with the city's attorney, Richard Chamberlain. Commission member Jerry Stotler said there is no zone in the city that would allow a facility of this kind. "I have also become aware of many other zoning violations existing in Ferron," Stotler stated.
Ferron resident Rod Moore stated many letters from private citizens have been turned into the commission with their feelings about the proposed center. The majority of the commission has reviewed those letters. A letter from the Emery County Sheriff's Office has also been received.
Another Ferron resident asked the commission if both sides of the issue have been researched extensively. Commission chairman, Dennis Worwood, answered a resounding yes to the question. Stotler also stated he has been thoroughly reading and analyzing everything he can find in Ferron's ordinances, on the internet, and in Ferron and state codes. "I have read everything that anyone has brought to me," added Stotler.
Williams addressed the commission with a statement concerning Utah Code. She explained when a land use applicant makes an application and that city's ordinances do not specifically disallow a use, some concession must be made to allow for that particular use. "I am not asking you to change your zoning, I just need a land use permit. I don't want to make anyone's life miserable. I feel this can be a good, positive thing for Ferron," said Williams.
Ferron resident Mike Behling said, "In the best interest of Ferron, the commission should weigh this decision carefully. We all live here for our own personal reasons. Change is inevitable and you can control that change. This is a residential/agricultural community. Your decision should be in the best interest of the residents of Ferron."
Stotler said, "Many people in this town have been playing the telephone game. The result is, after a few interpretations, they are operating on misinformation. Most people are misinformed about the facts in this case. This decision cannot be made on emotions."
Worwood reminded everyone of the planning and zoning commission's responsibility. "We are only an advisory committee to the city council. We advise them of the zoning regulations and make our recommendations. They will make the final decision," he said.
Jim Jennings, who oversees licensing in the state office of the Division of Child and Family Services said that a facility such as this proposed residential treatment center would be inspected at least three times a year. He added, if a city felt the need, an independent person could be trained to do the inspections on a more frequent basis.
Ronny Bloomer, who is a Ferron City councilman and also sits on the planning and zoning commission, made a statement. "This entire situation has turned into a big mess. There have been too many rumors and too much misinformation concerning this issue. It was reported that a resident referred to the girls as 'toxic waste.' That statement was never made. The resident simply said 'What will we do next, put a nuclear waste site in?' He did not call the children toxic waste. We need to go back to step one with this issue and start over without all the rumors and talk. This is a zoning ordinance issue and we need to set the feelings aside and focus on the laws and zoning."
Worwood thanked everyone for their comments and asked for a motion on the matter of issuing a business license for the treatment facility. Stotler moved to deny the business license at this time due to the zoning restrictions, and this was approved by the commission. He then moved to recommend the city council look at the possibility of changes to the ordinances to allow this type of facility. The commission approved this action.
In another action by the Ferron planning and zoning commission, it was approved to suggest to the city council to amend the zoning along Molen Road, which is zoned RA-1, and add a sub section, RA-2, to accommodate the smallest lot that currently has a house.