BECKLEY, WV (WVNS) — A group recovery home is causing controversy in Beckley, but the issue is not just about who lives in the home on Woodlawn Avenue. It is about the zoning ordinance of that neighborhood.
The City of Beckley is sectioned into zones, which dictates who, or what, can reside in that area. R-1 is the most commonly found zone. It is a one family district, meaning one house per lot with a single family residing inside.
This is the case for the Woodlawn Avenue area of Beckley. Councilman at Large, Tim Berry, said people can request a special conditional-use permit through the zoning board.
“You would present your application, there would be a hearing,” Berry said. “Before the hearing, residents and property owners within a certain distance from the involved property would be notified by mail of the hearing and they would be invited to come and voice their concerns, support, or opposition.”
The home is located on Woodlawn Avenue. This group home, as well as another home on Parker Street in Coal City, houses sex offenders on parole to help them transition from the Department of Corrections back into society.
Pastor Eugene Blankenship bought these houses for men who are in the LEAD Academy program. The LEAD Academy is a 12 month residential program for men and women.
“Anytime you have an individual that’s been in prison, they served their time, you know, they need a program to transition them through,” Berry said. “I think the issue is just the location.”
People living in the neighborhood are concerned for their children’s safety. Others say the organization is not a true 501c3 organization. They say the homes are not even certified.
“It is a legitimate program that Reverend Blankenship runs through the Department of Corrections which is, of course, a state of West Virginia agency,” Berry said.
Berry said Reverend Blankenship is moving the men out of these homes, but no matter where he moves them, the house must follow the zoning of the county. He must also apply for any permits necessary to help these man make a smooth transition.
59 News reached out to Pastor Blankenship who declined to comment because of the backlash he received on social media.