Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Dozens Show Up At City Council Meeting To Protest Treatment Center For Teenage Sex Offenders In Pleasant Grove, Utah

Apparently in my previous post, I barely scratched the surface of the resentment people in Pleasant Grove, Utah feel towards Alliance Youth Services, which is trying to set up a treatment center for dangerous juvenile sex offenders in the middle of a residential neighborhood in town. The storm broke in full fury on October 7th, 2008.

Dozens of Pleasant Grove residents picketed the City Council meeting on Tuesday to protest a proposed treatment center for teenage sex offenders. It looks like the city got caught in cahoots with Alliance Youth Services trying to fast-track this project through with minimal public scrutiny, and the people caught them red-handed. Full stories published by the Deseret News and the Provo Daily Herald.

After picketing outside, the residents then packed the Council meeting, demanding the city rescind a zoning law passed in July allowing rehab centers for sex offenders and people recovering from substance abuse in certain residential neighborhoods. In response, Alliance Youth Services requested approval for a treatment facility at 560 South 300 East, but residents told the City Council it would only be 310 feet away from a childcare center, making it illegal. City staffers cautioned that any school within 500 feet should have been noted in city documents and the information from residents will need to be investigated.

Residents also gave Council members a two-inch stack of signed petitions against the rehab. An estimated 500 people signed the petitions. Mayor Mike Daniels asked residents to take their concerns to city staff in upcoming days, claiming the residents' concerns had "not surfaced before."

Alliance Youth Services' request was denied by planning commissioners in August, and the company appealed the decision in September to the city's Board of Adjustments. The board found that the Planning Commission made a mistake in its decision but did not determine whether the rehab center would be allowed. A final decision will be rendered by the Board of Adjustments on October 16th. If the investigation verifies that the proposed treatment center would be within the 500 feet perimeter of the daycare center, the conditional use permit for AYS would have to be denied.

No one from Alliance Youth Services spoke at Tuesday's meeting. Daniels said repeatedly that he wanted residents to be clear that the Council does not vote to approve or deny uses permitted in established zones. Should the Board of Adjustments approve the rehab center, residents would have to turn to the courts to further attempt to stop it. Should the board deny the center, the center could turn to the courts to appeal.

Speaking to the Council, residents called the rehab center "manipulative and opportunistic" and said residents were not the ones who committed the sexual crimes "and we should not be exposed to these types of perversions". Residents also said the rehab documents show that the facility would take offenders of up to level six, meaning offenders who have used weapons or violence in commission of crimes and who would present a moderate to high danger to the community, according to state classifications.

Several residents said Alliance Youth Services representatives never mentioned the sexual nature of crimes committed by offenders who would be living in the center in the meeting with the Planning Commission. Residents said the center had tried to misrepresent the nature of the offenders to the city.

Daniels on Tuesday held up a copy of minutes from that meeting, saying that the minutes showed no discussion of sex offenders living at the rehab had taken place at the Planning Commission meeting. However, one resident, identified as David Duke, later rebutted this very strongly. "This is a straight-out, bold-faced lie," Duke said of the omission of information about housing sex offenders. "They are trying to play us, and as a citizen of Pleasant Grove I am not going to be played."

Analysis: Here's the simplified sequence of events:

(1). Re-zoning authority suddenly conferred in July.
(2). Alliance Youth Services misrepresents the project to the people.
(3). Planning Commission holds hearings and disapproves the proposal.
(4). Board of Adjustments overrules Planning Commission on a technicality.
(5). Planning Commission minutes show no record of discussion of "sex offenders".
(6). Mayor now scrambling to cover his ass.

Sounds like the city and the AYS were in cahoots to fast-track this project through, and the people caught them in the act and reacted.

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