Treatment program, City of Sandy Springs at odds

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SANDY SPRINGS, Ga. (CBS46)- Kim King has lived in her condo off Roberts Drive in Sandy Springs since February.

“I’ll be 11 months clean on the 16th of this month,” she told reporter Ashley Thompson.

King is in recovery through Mary Hall Freedom House, a substance abuse treatment program that she credits with turning her life around.

“This has been such a blessing to me because it’s home right now,” she said. It’s temporary and I know that but it’s helping me get stable. I’ve got a full-time job.”

Mary Hall Freedom House has been in Sandy Springs since 1996 when it was founded by Lucy Hall in remembrance of her mother.

“We offer everything from homeless housing, emergency services, long-term treatment…,” said Lucy.

The organization has helped many women get back on their feet over the years, renting out apartments for those in recovery. But Hall said things started to get ugly with the city of Sandy Springs when Mary Hall Freedom House bought 33 condos at the Preserve at Dunwoody last year.

“It’s not like we changed zip codes or area codes or any codes we just bought versus rent and so when we bought, we became the problem,” Hall said.

The city issued the organization 34 citations saying the organization is unlawfully using the condos for drug rehab.

“What they’re saying is – on the license from the state it says at this address in these 33 units, they are licensed to provide drug rehab and so they’re saying, oh you do drug rehab there and no we do not.”

Hall believe this has more to do with developers eyeing the property.

“Now they’re cleaning up the north end, which I guess I’m part of that plan, to get rid of a program that’s been here 22 years, but I know no devil in hell is going to move us."

The city of Sandy Springs sent CBS46 the following statement:

Unlike anyone who purchases property, Mary Hall Freedom House (MHFH) did not do their due diligence prior to purchasing the 33 condominium units. They did not do the necessary research to determine if their use complied with the City’s zoning laws, which is a standard practice in purchasing real estate. If they had done the homework, they would have discovered the units purchased are not located in an area zoned for drug rehabilitation or commercial operations.

Multiple families are living in these units. By their own calculations, they have 100 families living in 33 one and two bedroom apartment units. MHFH has these units registered with the Ga Dept. of Community Services which sanctions halfway houses for probation and paroled convicted felons. In addition, they are licensed by the Ga Dept. of Community Health as residential drug rehabilitation facilities. These are not authorized uses under the City’s zoning ordinance. According to their business license application, Freedom Village LLC, which operates MHFH, has annual revenues of more than $5M which is further indication to the City that these commercial activities are occurring in a residential setting.

The City has met on several occasions with leadership at MHFH to discuss these issues.

Mayor Paul has expressed willingness to meet with MHFH after the legal issues are resolved. On advice of counsel, it would be inappropriate to meet prior to the legal matter running its due course.

The City’s zoning ordinance and policies are in full compliance with Federal Fair Housing and Americans with Disabilities Laws. All the City is asking is that the organization operate lawfully.

The case is headed to court on December 12th.

Copyright 2018 WGCL-TV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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