By Devese “Dee” Ursery
At the Collinsville regular city council meeting, residents of the Briar Cliff, Ridgemont and Waverly communities opposed a sober living house in their neighborhood.
Five residents got up to speak against the existence of an Oxford House in their neighborhood. The first thing they wanted to know was how a sobriety house could be placed in a single-family residence neighborhood.
Gary Mutton, a Ridgemont resident, said that everybody has questions about the situation. He also stated that people were going along minding their own business when all of a sudden there was an Oxford House in our neighborhood.
“It just popped up out of the blue,” Mutton said.
The main issues that residents are concerned about: safety of the community, strange traffic in the neighborhood and lowered property value. Connie Nylan, a 25-year resident of Collinsvile said she has a problem with the Oxford House being on her block and the traffic its residents attract.
“I understand they want to improve their life, but who comes to visit them?” Nylan said. “I’m concerned about the strangers that come into our neighborhood, with the world like it is today, it’s kind of an uncomfortable feeling.”
Nylan stated that she is unfamiliar with these men and is disturbed by the fact that they trespass through private property to where they need to go. She lives across the street from them and says that they’re always walking around.
Nylan explained that she worked hard for her house and doesn’t want its property value to go down because of the unwelcome traffic.
“It just doesn’t feel right for our community,” Nylan said. “I do feel for these people. I have people in my family that have issues with drugs and alcoholism and they need a place to go. I realize that, but I don’t think Briar Cliff is the right place.”
Brian Cox, another Briar Cliff resident, described the sanctity of his community by giving a brief history lesson of the neighborhood. He also came up with contradictory statistics to back up why community residents are mad.
Cox explained that 78% of the residents of these homes have been in departments of correction. Before running out of time Cox said he read online studies showing that there’s no negative impact to property value when near an Oxford House.
Laurie Dockwitt, also from Briar Cliff, stated that the Oxford House is too flexible and questioned whether or not city code allowed it in a residential area. She offered that city staff apply for additional taxes on the house, like other city governments have done by collecting and remitting for hosts.
Dockwitt said the house is a semi-temporary living arrangement for several occupants who the homeowners believe should be taxed accordingly.
Mitch Bair, city manager let the speakers know that the council is aware and they have retained outside legal consultation to help with the matter.
“We’re not allowed to put too much on the record here about how this is progressing,” Bair said. “But the City is prepared to use its full legal authority to get compliance and make sure it’s consistent with what you see from a single-family neighborhood in use.”
The Oxford House was established in 1975 and is a concept in recovery from drug and alcohol addiction. Parallel to this concept lies the organizational structure of Oxford House, Inc. The number of its residents range from six to 15 and there are houses for men, women and women with children. Oxford House has over 2,000 houses in the U.S.
Council denied the rezoning of property owned by David Warner from R-1, single family residential district to a P-R-3, planned multi-family residential district. Warner made the request in order to convert an existing single-family structure into a multi-family residence with first and second floor units.
Council denied the rezoning application because of three reasons: The rezoning of the property negatively impacts the majority of the criteria for zoning district amendments. The proposed zoning is consistent with the comprehensive plan and strategic plan and the rezoning does not fit the city of Collinsville planned district ordinance objectives.
Caitlin Rice, senior planner explains in more detail the reason for the denial. Staff found that the comprehensive plan in the future land use map by this request would not be fulfilled by looking at the context of the surrounding area, according to Rice.
“When looking at the rezoning request we do have a set criteria to look for,” Rice said. “Staff finds that only one of these criteria was met which is adequacy of public utilities and other public services.
Rice said for the character of the neighborhood city officials find that with this matrix of context single-family structures are more dominant in this area. She also said based on the future land use map and comprehensive plan changing another structure into a nonconforming use would go against that.
Council members motioned to pass an ordinance to rezone property owned by Anderson Hospital. The plan is to rezone the parcel of land from B-2 commercial district to a P-BP-2 planned business park district.
The subject property is a recently expanded 2.9 acre parcel of land that was purchased from the First Assembly of God Church. Anderson Express Care, a 5,500 sq. ft. single-story structure currently sits on the property.
Anderson Healthcare is requesting the rezoning to a planned business park district to permit the development of a new 7,800 sq. ft. medical office building. The conversion from a commercial district to a planned business park district is to permit two primary structures on one legal lot of record.
Staff contends that the proposed zoning district is consistent with the comprehensive plan and is compatible with surrounding commercial use. The rezoning request was considered by the Planning Commission during a public hearing on Jan. 12.
Troy Turner, city engineer presented updates on the progress and future schedule for work along St. Louis Road. Phase I of the St. Louis Road storm sewer construction is a three- month project that will be complete in April. The next project after that will be phase I of the St. Louis Road water main relocation which will begin in May and be completed in June.
The Council also passed an ordinance authorizing Mayor John Miller to sign a second supplement in the amount of $13,771 between the city and CBB. The increase is for the design of additional storm sewers based on site conditions near the intersection of Maple Street and St. Louis Road. The original contract was $117,578, supplement one was $26,564 and with the second supplement, the total amount of the design contract is $157,9913.
A motion was made and passed to authorize a change order to the contract of Millennium Construction for the second floor interior renovations of city hall.
The change order will be in the amount of $93,402. and will cover the cost of abatement and removal of flooring materials containing asbestos. The abatement and encasement of lead-based paint on the window casings and baseboards as well as removal of deteriorating plaster on the north and west walls. With the addition of the change order to the project, the adjusted contract price is $280,202.
Keshawn Thomas, a 2022 Kahok graduate and the first to successfully complete the apprenticeship program accepted his Apprenticeship Recognition Award at the meeting.
Councilman Donna Green presented awards to the three recipients of the 29th Cherish Festival of Trees event at the regular bimonthly city council meeting. The event has always awarded one organization, but since the pandemic there has been a shortage of volunteers.
The Children’s Dyslexia Center, Collinsville Charities for Children and Miner’s Theatre all received $10,000 each. They had to go through the application process and share how the proceeds were gonna help their organization benefit the Collinsville community.
“This year to kind of spread the workload and share the love we accepted the applications for three different organizations,” Green said.