Denham Springs council discusses proposed group home

The City Council delayed action on a proposed group home for young women Tuesday night after an extended discussion.

Door of Hope Ministry asked the city to grant a variance that would allow it to open a home for 12 to 20 young women who have been victims of physical or sexual abuse or various other problems including drug abuse.

Council members expressed concern about the condition of the building on 4-H Club Road where the religious group hopes to operate the group home.

“I totally support what you are trying to do,” Councilwoman Annie Fugler said, but she added that a lot of money will be required to make the building ready for habitation.

Fugler said some people living in the vicinity of the proposed location are concerned about a repeat of problems they experienced from a group home that occupied the site several years ago.

Neighbor A.C. Speziale said he doesn’t oppose the vision of the group, but said he has seen the city demolish buildings that are in better condition than the one the group home proposes to occupy.

“This property is going to take an enormous amount of money to rehab,” he said.

Kristen Maddux, founder of the nonprofit organization, said a number of people are ready to go to work fixing it up.

In addition to volunteer labor, she said, it will cost about $40,000 to upgrade the main building, where 12 women and a housemother would live.

Grants, donations and fundraisers will help to finance the work, she said. Maddux said she hopes to see it open in 2014.

Councilman John Wascom said that if the city doesn’t give the group a variance, the building won’t be repaired.

“If we issue a variance, they might be able to fix it,” he said. “We might have to take a little chance here.”

Councilman Chris Davis said he needed more information.

Mayor Jimmy Durbin and building official Rick Foster outlined documents and drawings they would like to receive from the group before a decision is made.

“I don’t think it’s an appropriate time to take action,” Durbin said, suggesting the council table the matter.

The variance would allow the home to open despite the fact that the plot of land where it would be located is only 4.23 acres rather than the 5 acres required by city ordinance for such a site.