Jeff Smith 2 p.m., Dec. 18
Councilmembers Set To Vote On Old Town Transitional Housing Facility For Combat Veterans
At a city council meeting on Tuesday, counclimembers will make the final decision whether to allow a transitional housing facility for combat veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan to be built in Old Town.
The "Aspire Center," a 40-bed facility would be located in the former Thomas Jefferson Law School building and would treat veterans plagued with PTSD or in need of help recovering from traumatic brain injuries.
According to officials from the Veterans Affairs office, veterans will have access to physical, occupational, and vocational therapy as well have access to psychologists and substance abuse counselors.
The proposal, however, was not well-received by some neighbors, among them administrators from the Old Town Academy, a charter school located across the street from the proposed site.
Co-founder of the academy, Christopher Celentino, expressed his opposition at a number of community meetings. At a meeting of the Uptown Planning Group, Celentino worried about potential violence from unstable veterans. "This is an open facility across the street from children who...if there is a problem will not have an opportunity to defend themselves. It is not the right location, across the street from an elementary school," he said.
Nearly two-hundred parents of children attending the academy have stated that they will likely withdraw their children if the Aspire Center is built, likely forcing the closure of the charter school.
Several local community groups also voted against the project, including the Mission Hills Town Council, Five Points/Middletown Business Association, Old Town Chamber of Commerce, and most recently, the Uptown Planners.
During Tuesday's council hearing, councilmembers will first consider a last ditch effort from Cynthia Morgan, the lawyer for the Old Town Academy, to overturn an environmental exemption. After that item, if the appeal is rejected, councilmembers will vote whether to grant a conditional use permit. If that occurs the Veterans Affairs office will move forward with the proposal.
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