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Transitional homes get new standards

Coweta County commissioners last week established standards for Transitional Housing Shelters and added new definitions for daycare operations and assisted living facilities.

The move to amend the zoning and development ordinance stemmed from discussions involving a conditional use permit for the BelAir transitional home in north Coweta located in a Rural Conservation-zoned area. The permit was approved unanimously Feb. 16, but not without much discussion and 36 conditions being imposed before the home can be re-opened.

Commissioners in January enacted a moratorium on nursing homes, non-profits and charitable or philanthropic uses in residential districts that extended until Aug. 4.

Planning Director Robert Tolleson at the July 20 meeting recommended several ordinance changes relating to Transitional Housing Shelter requirements. Central to the changes was the removal of transitional shelters as a possible conditional use in areas zoned Rural Conversation. Such shelters were deemed appropriate for areas zoned R-2 (Multifamily Residential), O-I (Office-Institutional) and C-4 (Commercial Service). Facilities for transitional housing would be appropriate in districts zoned for major and minor shopping centers.

Nursing homes were also removed as a conditional use from Rural Conversation-zoned districts due to the noise generated by emergency response vehicles and due to the need for such facilities to have access to other care facilities such as hospitals.

Other components of the ordinance amendment included the establishment of design standards such as a sprinkler system, clearly marked emergency exits, obtaining a commercial kitchen and food service permit and adequate emergency access.

The amendment also sets minimum operational standards covering evacuation drills, regular inspections of safety equipment, staffing ratios, first aid and CPR certifications for all staff, background checks, residency verifications, evidence of a structured program to promote self-sufficiency, transportation provisions for residents and a restriction on the duration of the stay.

The amendment also added new definitions for ambulatory persons, assisted living facilities, daycare, transitional housing shelters and nursing homes.

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