LISBON - The village zoning board took action Monday that will allow the Columbiana County Counseling Center to build another housing unit in town for the mentally disabled.
The variance granted by the zoning board will result in construction of an eight-unit apartment complex off Rose Drive on a 1-acre lot between the Dollar General and Fleming House.
Counseling Center Executive Director Roger Sikorsky said the apartment complex is for the mentally disabled with drug and alcohol dependency issues but who can function somewhat on their own in a controlled environment that will be staffed around the clock.
"The folks we'd like to place there have a great need to be near amenities," such as those available nearby, he said. This would include the Dollar General, Rite Aid McDonalds, and Consumer National Bank. Also next door is the county welfare office and the Community Action Agency, and across state Route 45 is a small plaza and a supermarket.
"So to be within walking distance of these amenities is critical and one of the reasons we chose the Dickey property," Sikorsky said.
The property is being purchased from the Dickey family for $80,000 and the estimated project cost is $1.75 million, but this includes construction of a duplex for the mentally disabled in East Liverpool on Pennsylvania Avenue. Federal money is being used to fund the project.
The Counseling Center already operates the 30-unit Applegrove Apartments complex located nearby on Saltwell Road and a duplex on Washington Street, as well as the Kendall House at its office complex located east of town off state Route 154.
Since the Dickey property is located in an area zoned general business district, a variance was needed for the apartment complex to be built. The zoning board went into executive session briefly to discuss the application and returned to ask if the facility could house sex offenders.
Sikorsky said since federal Housing and Urban Development money was being used to help fund the project, Tier 3 sex offenders were ineligible to stay there, but he did not know if any other level of sex offender could. He assured the board residents would be thoroughly screened for this before being allowed to live there.
"Obviously, maintaining security all around is critical," Sikorsky said.
This was of concern to board members because the apartment complex would be located next door to the Fleming House, which houses women with alcohol and drug abuse problems and their children. In fact, the Fleming House playground would abut the apartment complex property.
Attending the meeting in support of the project was Eloise Traina of the Family Recovery Center, which runs the Fleming House. "Roger and I talked at length about this ... and he assured me" no sex offenders would be allowed there, she said.
"So, you are comfortable with this?" asked board member Mike Ours.
"Yes, I am," Traina replied.
The board voted 4-0 to approve the variance needed for the apartment complex to be built. Alisa Gostey, who lives in town, voted in favor despite an unsettling visit from a Kendall House resident, who showed up at their home when only her teenage daughter was home. The man asked if her father was home to give him a ride but then moved on to other homes in the neighborhood.
"That concerns me," Gostey said.
"I don't think that kind of thing is avoidable," Sikorsky said. "We just try to monitor and be available."