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Andrew Young spars with Sandy Springs over halfway house zoning issues

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Neighbors have reportedly complained about excessive noise at the Mary Hall Freedom House

The entrance to Reserve of Dunwoody, where a nonprofit transitional housing group owns about one-third of units.
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Former Atlanta mayor and Ambassador to the United Nations Andrew Young is stepping up to defend a Sandy Springs halfway house embroiled in controversy over zoning codes.

The mission of the nonprofit Mary Hall Freedom House, which currently houses more than 100 women and children in 33 condos at Reserve of Dunwoody, is to help women transition out of homelessness, drug addiction, and poverty.

Recently, however, city officials have taken issue with the way the facility has been operating, claiming that MHFH officials “did not do their due diligence prior to purchasing the 33 condominium units,” according to a city news release.

Additionally, according to the Marietta Daily Journal, neighbors complained that, when the MHFH—owned by for-profit Freedom Village—took control of the condos in question, it pushed previous tenants out and replaced them with loud, disruptive residents.

MHFH claims that a judge has already tossed out the City of Sandy Springs’s initial complaints of “incorrect zoning licenses, paperwork, and other permits,” according to a release sent out by the halfway house’s leaders.

Now, however, the city has reportedly issued 34 new citations, which await a court’s deliberation.

Andrew Young.
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“If they had done the homework, they would have discovered the units purchased are not located in an area zoned for drug rehabilitation or commercial operations,” according to the city’s release.

Today at 1:30 p.m., Young is scheduled to tour the MHFH and likely lobby for its protection.

“At risk are more than 100 women and their children who are housed in the cited apartments,” the MHFH release said. “If the city’s challenges are successful, these women will likely be homeless again.”

Young had been part of a committee of business leaders and other halfway house operators who audited the facility’s ability to operate in Sandy Springs.

The committee asked:

“Do you have a zoning certificate to operate in the existing locations as required by state law to obtain a state license for such operations?”

“Are you in compliance with local zoning ordinances for operating in the current locations?”

“Are you properly licensed by the appropriate state and local governmental entities?”

“Why do they have so many unrelated persons in the same location/residential unit contrary to best practices in such settings?”

In vetting responses, the committee report “found nothing out of order,” according to the MHFH release.

The halfway house operators also claimed that Sandy Springs Mayor Rusty Paul is unwilling to meet with them to iron out issues.

City officials, meanwhile, said the mayor is waiting until the legal issues are resolved before sitting down with MHFH leaders again.