Residents of a Pleasant Grove, Utah neighborhood targeted with the conversion of a single-family residence into a prospective group home for juvenile sex offenders are up in arms over the proposal, gathering signatures on petitions, and will present their concerns at a meeting of the Pleasant Grove City Council scheduled for 7:00 P.M. on October 7th, 2008. Full stories published by KSL Channel 5 and KTVX Channel 4 (with video).
The home in question, located at 560 South 300 East, is to be used as a residential treatment facility for teenagers convicted of sex offenses. Boys between the ages of 12-20 would live in the house. They would be classified as “level six”. Level six is described as “high-risk youth who engage in sexual misconduct with a broad range of sexual offense behaviors and who are often sexually preoccupied”, as described by the Utah Network on Juveniles Offending Sexually. The prospective number of boys to be living there at any one time has not been disclosed and is a significant and justifiable concern for the neighborhood residents.
The problem first surfaced when the targeted home was "cherry-picked" and selectively rezoned commercial and sold to Alliance Youth Services (AYS) of American Fork. AYS then revealed their plans to turn the house into a group home. Neighborhood residents immediately expressed their concerns to the Pleasant Grove Planning Commission, which was sympathetic and decided the proposed center was not in the best interests of the health and well being of the neighborhood.
However, that decision was overturned by the city’s Board of Adjustments, which now appears favorably disposed to grant AYS its permit to operate. Adding insult to injury, residents claim the Board of Adjustments will not hear their arguments or receive their evidence, instead, basing their final decision solely upon the minutes from the Planning Commission. This appears undemocratic, because if the Planning Commission is willing to accept public input, the Board of Adjustments, for the sake of horizontal consistency, should ALSO accept public input. And so the next stop is the City Council, which can exercise authority over both entities. Correction: At the City Council meeting, the Council claimed it cannot exercise this authority, and told the residents that if the center is approved, their only recourse may be to sue.
Here's the logistical situation. On one side of the home live a family with one teenager and two small children. On the other side live a family with three small children and a new baby on the way. Counting the homes immediately across the street, this makes a grand total of 20 children living adjacent to the AYS home. Furthermore, there’s a pre-school behind the AYS house, as well as a daycare center, an elementary school, and a charter school all within a short walking distance of the AYS home.
The problem is obvious - there are already numerous kids within a relatively small area. Add to the mix an additional number of disturbed teenagers, some of whom may come from urban backgrounds, bringing with them loud, uncouth behavioral habits and a predilection for offensive rap or mariachi music, and you have a situation absolutely ripe with conflict potential. Here's a very insightful comment posted to the KSL story by a Pleasant Grove resident who lives five blocks away from the AYS home. This individual once supported it, but now opposes it. Here's why:
The rest of the story...
by momstamps @ 1:38pm - Tue Oct 7th, 2008
is that residents within 300 yards of the house were sent a letter letting them know about the coming facility. In the City Council meeting where I attended, in response to a resident's complaint, it was stated that the facility would be a treatment house for those with alcohol, drug and/or sex abuse issues. It sounded like a facility for adults. I live within 5 blocks of the proposed facility and didn't raise a fuss because, honestly, they have to live somewhere, it sounded like a "low-level threat" most likely alcohol/drug abusers or first time offenders (not that I liked this option), this facility would be on the edge of the commercial district, and it is not a main walking route to the local elementary. Since then, other facts have come to light that mitigate my previous opinion.
First, the facility will not be housing adults but juveniles. It's hard enough to teach stranger danger to little kids and have them worry about every unknown adult they may encounter, and more so when you have to include other juveniles. Second, these are not first time offenders. They are classified as Level Six Offenders. That means they have abused others SEVERAL times, are good at manipulation, opportunistic, and basically don't feel remorse for what they've done because they have been so abused emotionally, physically, etc. while growing up that they don't get what the problem is! Third, this facility although about a mile from the local elementary school, is right around the corner from a LDS Stake Center. You don't put opportunistic predators around the corner from 300 potential victims every week. Fourth, the bus stop for the Jr. High is at the end of the block from this house. Although these kids are old enough to be warned of the dangers, the offenders housed in this facility are skilled at manipulation. They know how to play the game to get what they want. Fifth, this facility will be a "supervised, nonsecured" facility. Rumor is that it will be on lock down from 9 pm to 9 am, but all day long it would be possible for someone to leave. Sixth, this home is on a large lot. Once the city allows this business to come in, they cannot stop the business from building another facility on the lot. Rumor has it that once the juvenile facility is up and running, the company will build an adult facility on the back lot.
Pleasant Grove has a lot of booming commercial areas and open space, let a facility like this be built there, and not set up in the midst of families with small children. That my friends is the rest of the story.
The residents are not opposed to the idea for a treatment center for young sex offenders. They just believe it would be more appropriate to place it in an area already zoned commercial and not dominated by young families. And although they are not on the official meeting agenda, they plan to make their case during the public comment period at the city council meeting. That meeting begins 7:00 P.M. October 7th at the Pleasant Grove City Hall, 86 E. 100 South.
Commentary: Before you, the reader, judge these people as "selfish NIMBYs", ask yourself this question. Would you personally be willing to live next door to a group home containing as many as 10-20 disturbed teenagers, knowing the predominant behavioral habits prevalent amongst teenagers? If your answer is "No", you should at least be sympathetic towards their concerns. These people have a legitimate case.