Board rejects shelter site 11/13/2015

Published 12:00 am Friday, November 13, 2015

Board rejects shelter site

By Rupert Howell
A special exception to place a shelter for abused women in the Sardis Lake Estates area was voted down unanimously by the county’s Land Use Commission Monday night after lively discussions from neighboring landowners and board members of Batesville Safe Shelter.

Although discussions were spirited, all opposing said they saw a need for the shelter but didn’t want it in their community.

Rev. Jake Julian has spearheaded the group after seeing the need while serving as chaplain at the local hospital, stating he sees abused women there on average of three times a month, but noted that there are others he doesn’t see.

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He explained the facility would be a modular home placed on the back of five-and-one-half acres with fence, electric gate and lighting.

“Sheriff (Dennis) Darby is very supportive. He sees the problems every day. I had two incidents at the hospital last week. It’s happening, it’s a problem,” Julian stated, noting jail log figures of four to seven domestic violence calls a week. “Those are only the ones calling law enforcement.”

Julian explained to Commissioners that the safe shelter was not a “homeless shelter,” and that the nearest facility was in Tupelo which serves nine counties and is “always at capacity.”
Several of Julian’s board members, many of them either victims of domestic abuse or who had family members who were victims, gave testimonials and personal accounts of what domestic abuse does and its effects.

Many of those opposing the measure stated during the hearing that they also had been in an abusive family situation or had abused family members but held firm to that location not being a good site for the shelter.

Although many talked of the serenity of the area, most admitted to regular gunfire from either property owners or nearby public lands where hunting is common.

Nearby popery owner Richard Avery who said the proposed shelter site is 50 feet from his house stated, “Our community ain’t that close, but something like this might have made us closer.”

Commissioner Danny Holland said that he was against the location because of the time it would take first responders to get there in case of an emergency. He made a motion to deny the request which passed with all seven of the 10 members present voting against the special exception.

Julian told opposing members that it would have been better if they would have called him at the number posted on the sign advertising the Shelter’s proposal stating that his board wanted to be good neighbors and that they didn’t want to be where they were not wanted.

The conclusion of that hearing had opposing sides in friendly discussion when leaving the room.

Those present Monday along with Holland included: Arlene Wilson, Frank Carter, Tim Holliday, Kirk Rowsey and Danny Jones. Jones chaired Monday’s meeting in Commissioner Sledge Taylor’s absence.

In other business, commissioners approved an event venue for 3925 Highway 315, Batesville that is proposed to be a rustic barn type structure. Gary Hartman spoke for family members planning to operate the facility. Hartman was told to work through enforcement officer Chad Meek and the Health Department for compliance.

Commissioners also approved October minutes and other ‘housekeeping chores prior to hearings during the November meeting. They will meet again December 14 in Sardis at the Panola County Courthouse at 6 p.m.