Group homes amendment OK’d

Published 12:47 pm Wednesday, May 22, 2019

A zoning ordinance amendment to include a specific district for group home conditional use permits was approved by the Lunenburg County Board of Supervisors on May 9.

No members of the public spoke during the public hearing.

Lunenburg County Planner Glenn Millican said the amendment would be added to the Agricultural-1 District.

The district designation now allows group homes to be fully considered for conditional use permits under the zoning ordinance. The designation was inadvertently omitted from the zoning ordinance.

In a memo to the board of supervisors, Millican said that “it appears that in the adoption process of the existing ordinance, the use ‘Group Home’ was included in the ordinance definition, but omitted from the district uses that were allowed.”

Millican said the vote would only change the language of the ordinance and allow for the applications to be considered as conditional uses by the Lunenburg County Planning Commission and board of supervisors.

Millican said in a phone interview Tuesday that this amendment does not apply to group homes in the towns of Kenbridge and Victoria. The towns have separate zoning ordinances from the county.

The county does not currently have any group homes. There was an application for a group home that Millican said did not end up materializing. It was when reviewing the ordinance that Millican said the county realized there wasn’t a specific district for group homes.

“The safeguard to this is that each case that will come before you will be analyzed individually under the requirements of a conditional use permit,” County Attorney Frank Rennie said during the meeting. “The planning commission will look over it very stringently, and then they’ll come to the board and make a recommendation.”

“It simply allows people to apply for the use,” Millican added.

Group homes are defined, according to the county zoning ordinance, as a residential facility in which no more than eight tenants with developmental disabilities can reside. More than one resident counselors or staff persons would also need to be present at the home.

“For the purposes of this definition, mental illness and developmental disability shall not include current illegal use of or addiction to a controlled substance as defined in Code of Virginia, § 54.1-3401. The term ‘group home’ shall include any other residential facility for which the Virginia Department of Mental Health, Mental Retardation and Substance Abuse Services is the licensing authority under State law,” the ordinance cited.

The amendment would also seek to update the reference name of the “Virginia Department of Mental Health, Mental Retardation and Substance Abuse Services” to the “Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services.”