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Battle lines have been drawn in Old Town over a proposal to build a transitional housing facility for combat veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. For months, community members and administrators of the Old Town Academy have fought a proposal to build the "Aspire Center," a 40-bed facility where combat veterans would receive treatment for PTSD or help recovering from mild to traumatic brain injuries.

The school's administrators and the hundred or so parents who have children enrolled in the charter school say the facility is not a good fit for the community and could possibly place children in harm's way. Administrators say if the project moves forward, the school would likely have to close its doors.

Local community groups have also come out in opposition to the project. So far, the Mission Hills Town Council, Five Points/Middletown Business Association, and Old Town Chamber of Commerce have voted against the proposal.

On the other hand, officials from Veterans Affairs say if the project doesn't move forward, funding for a facility would run dry, and veterans in need of help would be forced to fend for themselves.

Last month, more than 50 people spoke both for and against the proposal during the monthly meeting of the Uptown Planners. At that meeting, the boardmembers voted to continue the item so that they could review the environmental and zoning documents. The group will once again discuss whether the city should grant a conditional use permit for the project during a meeting tomorrow night at the Joyce Beers Community Center.

In preparation for the meeting, chair of the Uptown Planners, Don Liddell, asked for some guidance from the city attorney's office. In a letter, writing on behalf of the Uptown Planning group, Liddell asked if the facility is considered a "transitional housing facility" or a "residential housing facility." In the proposal, city staff had labeled the project as a "transitional military facility." The designation could decide whether the project conforms to current zoning laws.

Judging by the letter, which did not give a determination on whether the project falls under "transitional" or "residential," the Uptown Planners may decide to sit the vote out and discuss only on an advisory level.

"You have inquired into the ability of the Uptown Planners to take an advisory vote regarding the project while the use determination issue is unresolved," read the letter from deputy city attorney Shannon Thomas. "Because it is possible that this issue may remain unresolved until the hearing to decide whether the permit should issue or not, the Uptown Planners may wish to make alternative advisory recommendations."

The Uptown Planners will meet at the Joyce Beers Community Center in Hillcrest at 6pm

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Comments

cousin May 1, 2012 @ 3:43 p.m.

This is an excellent location for this much needed treatment program. It's a lovely building on a mixed-use street, close to military facilities at MCRD and stores and restaurants in Old Town. It's near the airport and freeways, so visiting family and friends will be able to get to it easily, and there are hotels nearby where they can stay. There is even a dog care facility next door that will provide companion dogs for the patients.

This program is not a threat to the community. People with mild brain concussions or post-traumatic stress disorder don't go around attacking the neighbors, that's not characteristic of that type of injury. There is no reason for anyone to be afraid of them.

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Visduh May 1, 2012 @ 4:36 p.m.

This time around, I'd hoped it would be different for the veterans, but nothing has really changed. They serve and suffer and then are stigmatized upon their return home, especially if they need some help. These opponents may be objecting for other, less politically correct reasons, or maybe they are just stupid. Each one needs to look in the mirror and repeat, "that could be me out there, or my brother/sister, nephew/niece, uncle/aunt or my best friend." They served to make me secure and you secure and even their opponents secure. And this is the gratitude they get here in San Diego? Disgraceful!

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cousin May 1, 2012 @ 9:10 p.m.

In the end, this issue will be decided by the City Council. Contact them and tell them to support this project.

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