The Fayetteville City Council voted 8-2 Thursday to rename new halfway houses, or residential reentry centers, in the city to “community reintegration centers” and limit the number of residents who can live there, depending on their proximity to single-family and multifamily housing.
Council members Mario Benavente and Deno Hondros voted against the measure. Before the vote, the council held a public hearing , but no residents spoke.
Halfway houses provide employment counseling, job placement, financial management assistance and other programs to incarcerated people nearing release as they reintegrate into their community, according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons.
The new restrictions are immediate. Any new halfway houses will be subject to the restrictions, said Loren Bymer, Fayetteville’s marketing and communications director, on Friday.
The new limitations would not apply to any existing halfway houses or those already approved, said Gerald Newton, Fayetteville’s development services director, before the City Council’s vote.
“These are for things that are moving forward. This is not retroactive,” Newton said.
The limitations that will apply to any future community reintegration centers in the city would:
- Limit the centers to 30 residents within a half-mile of a single-family zoning district; limit to 40 residents within a half-mile of a multifamily zoning district; limit to the most restrictive amount if the center is within the given radius of both a single-family and multifamily zoning district.
- Limit the centers to mixed-use and community commercial zoning districts.
According to the text of the amendments approved by the council, the new name, community reintegration center, will also fall under a new legal definition:
“A secured facility that provides temporary housing and supportive services for persons transitioning from an institutional or custodial setting, or as an alternative to such a setting, wherein residents receive supervision, rehabilitation, and counseling to assist their readjustment into society and achievement of personal independence. Residents may receive services for purposes that include, but are not limited to: (a) recuperation from addiction or psychiatric disorders (a disability); (b) reentering society while under the constraints of alternatives to imprisonment including, but not limited to, prerelease, work release, or probationary programs (not a disability); or (c) assistance with family or school adjustment problems that require specialized attention (not a disability). Formerly known as, Halfway House.”
City staff’s original proposal would have set the applicable distance for multifamily housing at 500 feet, but council member D.J. Haire, during Thursday’s meeting, altered the proposal in the motion he made that was approved by a majority of the City Council.
Newton said city staff made the proposal based on similar restrictions on halfway houses in other North Carolina cities such as Greensboro, Wilmington, Greenville and Winston-Salem.
Before Thursday’s vote, there were no limits on the number of residents. Halfway houses could be built in mixed-use, community commercial, mixed residential 5, downtown, limited commercial and office institutional zoning districts. Further information on what can be built in these zoning districts can be found here.
New development of community reintegration centers will also be subject to the city’s special-use permit process. The process requires the centers, including various other types of developments, to go through an application process.The applicant would need to give details on development and consider any potential negative impacts on property nearby.
“Those are good standards that put a stronger burden on somebody coming in to show that what they’re doing will not substantially injure the value of the adjoining land,” Newton said. “And it’s in harmony with the area in which it’s located.”
Discussion among City Council
Benavente, who voted against the new limitations, said the proposal should have been returned to staff to rework. He said that restrictions for halfway houses should be determined on a case-by-case basis by the council instead of restricting all halfway houses from the outset.
“I understand the concerns. Let that mean that you’re going to be a tough vote to get when it comes to that time. But to try and eliminate anybody from even approaching us about this, I think is the wrong direction,” Benavente said.
He said limiting community reintegration centers in this way defeats the purpose of reintegration.
“Recidivism happens when we do not reintegrate. If we get people coming out of prison, if they don’t get the support that they need, they’re going to end up causing more harm,” Benavente said.
Council member Shakeyla Ingram, who voted for the measure, said that reintegration is more about how the community treats those coming out of incarceration.
“Not where they go and lay their heads, per se. We want them to be in a comfortable setting. We want them to be in a home. But in terms of geographically locating,” Ingram said, “I think it’s more about how we are interacting with the citizens when they are coming back into the community and the programs that are available for them.”
Given the council’s approval of the new restrictions, all community reintegration centers in the future will be subject to the restrictions. Existing halfway houses, however, will not be affected as the restrictions are not retroactive.
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