Neighbors ask for details on group homes, their residents

A handful of residents who have voiced opposition to the construction of group homes in their neighborhoods lobbied their concerns during a meeting Thursday night.

Residents in the neighborhood of the 2700 block of Olson Avenue were invited to the forum at Mesa Developmental Services headquarters, the not-for-profit agency that is quickly building homes to house 24 residents of the Grand Junction Regional Center.

Twenty-four of the 32 residents of the Regional Center’s skilled nursing unit, who have contracted with Mesa Developmental Services, are due to be displaced as the unit is slated for closure March 1 to help balance the state’s budget.

Mesa Developmental Services is building three, eight-bedrooms homes — two in Orchard Mesa and one in Fruitvale — to house the residents.

A few of the nine residents from those targeted neighborhoods who attended Thursday’s meeting expressed concerns that the home slated for Olson Avenue didn’t appear to fit in with homes because of six parking spaces in the front and the home’s 4,800-square-foot footprint. Other homes in the area are 900 to 1,100 square feet, one man said.

Kathy Deppe said she feels Mesa Developmental Services was given special privileges to move forward quickly on the project without obtaining a building permit. She also questioned why neighborhood residents weren’t notified of the plans to build the homes before construction began.

“You guys were able to do things we would not be able to do,” Deppe said.

Kevin Bray, project manager on two of the homes, said the home’s foundation was started before a building permit was obtained, a process which is commonly accepted. The permit, which was in the application stage at the start of the building process, has since been obtained, Bray said.

Mesa Developmental Services’ chief executive officer, Jeff Nichols, said if there was an oversight on the building permit, it was not intentional. During an exchange with neighborhood residents that became heated at times, Nichols also said the homes would not generate excess traffic or lighting, that there would not be delivery trucks coming and going, and the homes operate more like a residential home than a medical facility.

Public meetings for new homes in neighborhoods aren’t the norm, but a public meeting for the group home was required to meet the criteria for a grant, Nichols said.

He said he has fielded calls from neighborhood residents questioning whether the members of the group home are sex offenders or dangerous. They are neither.

The Regional Center’s director, Chris Mueller, said residents from the Regional Center function between a couple months of age to a year or two, and their disabilities are medical in nature.

Mueller said neighbors of group homes in the past have had similar questions about what kind of people live in group homes and whether neighbors will be safe.

The Regional Center has 10 groups homes in the community, and Mesa Developmental Services has a dozen homes.

Neighbors of a Mesa Developmental Services’ group home built in 2006 in Orchard Mesa initially opposed it, but that neighborhood has come to appreciate the home because of its thoughtful design and well-kept exterior, Nichols and Mueller said. The group home’s residents now are viewed by neighbors as an added value to the community, they said.

“They aren’t ambulatory,” Mueller explained of the group homes’ residents. “They won’t come rambling out at you. They are very sweet.”


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