Orem City Council votes against youth rehabilitation center

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    By LINDSAY EYRE

    A local youth rehabilitation center has hit a hurdle it hoped to avoid in its quest to establish a group home in an Orem neighborhood, and residents of the neighborhood are smiling.

    The Orem City Council voted Tuesday to continue to require group homes to get a conditional use permit in residential areas.

    The youth rehabilitation center hoped the city council would change the ordinance that currently requires businesses to obtain a permit before group homes can be established in residential areas, said Mary Kay Kennedy an owner of 4-The-Youth, the youth rehabilitation center.

    A youth rehabilitation group home is where at-risk teens are placed after they have been unsuccessfully placed in foster homes and need more supervision.

    The Council also voted to postpone further consideration on youth rehabilitation group homes until a committee can consider other building zones for the homes.

    4-The-Youth has tried before to establish a group home in a neighborhood, but their request was denied when a similar neighborhood dissented, Kennedy said.

    “We’re going to go all the way with this one,” Kennedy said.

    Residents in the neighborhood, however, are happy their concerns were heard.

    “As long as it’s conditional use we have a say,” said neighborhood resident Kathy Watson. “If it’s not (conditional use), the rights of citizens are taken away.”

    Residents are worried the group home will decrease the value of their property and increase safety concerns.

    Lisa Smith, a resident of the Shadowridge Condominiums, a complex near the proposed youth rehabilitation center, used to work for a similar youth organization.

    “We feel like it’s a bad spot (for the group home),” she said. “These are teenage kids with conduct disorders that could include rape, drug-use, and theft. There are many small children in the neighborhood and there aren’t any guarantees that the (teenagers) won’t run.”

    Kennedy said although there are no guarantees youth will not try to run, there is a full time staff that keeps 24-hour surveillance.

    “We have bed checks every 10 minutes,” she said. “You can’t say never because someone could run in 10 minutes, but they couldn’t get very far.”

    Residents in the area, however, are concerned youth could travel far because of the proposed site’s proximity to the freeway and convienence stores.

    Orem resident Gary McNeil has lived in the proposed neighborhood for 38 years. He agrees that a group home is needed, but thinks a different site would be better.

    “Ten years ago when nothing was here, it might have been a good place, but now that there are condominiums with young families and shopping centers and convienence stores, it just doesn’t make sense that they would put this home here,” McNeil said.

    Orem City Councilmember Mike Thompson suggested the council wait on the proposal while a committee researches other places to be zoned for the purpose.

    “It’s a community responsibility to help each other,” he said. “A group home is needed and we will find a place to have it.”

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