Zoning Change Sought For New Support Center In Ellery

A town hall meeting will be held Monday to discuss the proposal of a new county domestic violence and sexual assault support center being located in the town of Ellery.

The town hall meeting will be at 7 p.m. at the Fluvanna Fire Department, 3536 Fluvanna Townline Road, Jamestown, said Jeremy Swanson, Salvation Army finance manager. He said this is the second town hall meeting held about a new center in the town since Salvation Army officials located a possible new facility, which cannot be disclosed to the public said Philip Cala, a Jamestown attorney who is on the advisory board for the Salvation Army.

Swanson said Salvation Army officials have petition the town to amend the zoning law to allow for the facility in the town.

In order to use the new possible location for a domestic violence and sexual assault support center in the town, Salvation Army officials need to have the zoning changed in the B-2 (Highway-Business) District to allow for a safe housing refuge and support center.

Swanson said Salvation Army officials have appeared before the Ellery Planning Board to have the possible zoning change referred to the town board. On June 14, Salvation Army officials appeared before the town board to request a public hearing, which has been scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Thursday, July 12. The town board could vote following the public hearing on whether to approve the zoning change.

Swanson said they have a petition signed by 200 people who support the new domestic violence and sexual assault support center in the town.

Diana Butcher, Salvation Army Anew Center director, said a new facility is necessary because the current Anew Center, which is located in a mansion built in the 1860s, is in need of several renovations including American With Disabilities Act improvements and new plumbing and electrical system upgrades. She said they have a second location near the Anew Center for administrative purposes that also needs to be rehabilitated. She added both buildings need new technology installed and more space to ensure privacy for their clients.

The current Anew Center has led to several accidents for clients. She told one story about how an elderly lady who was a victim of abuse after being pushed down stairs injured her face at the Anew Center while trying to climb stairs. Swanson said another example is when they needed room for a dialysis machine for a child. Because there were no rooms that fit the necessary equipment, the upstairs living room had to be cleared so there would be enough room for the child and the dialysis machine.

Butcher said the Anew Center now has 13 beds, if Ellery Town zoning laws are changed, the new facility would have 19 beds. She said the new facility would give them much needed space for training and activities. She added the new facility would also include a private bathroom for each client and there would also be a playground for children.

The Anew Center’s current location in the city is also located in a high-crime area, Butcher said. She said the crime that happens around the center, which has nothing to do with the clients, reflects negatively on the support center.

“There are crime elements in the neighborhood that has nothing to do with the Anew Center,” she said. “(We need to dismiss) the mythology about crime and the center.”

Swanson said since 1985 when the Anew Center became a certified support center, 14 emergency calls have been made, with only one for someone in the facility who was dealing with a medical emergency. Butcher said, in the 33 years they have been a certified support center, no was has illegally entered the facility.

Butcher said when she asked people about the need for the Anew Center in the county, she always hears a positive response from residents. However, she said once it starts to be proposed to be in their municipality, that is when Salvation Army officials start to have trouble receiving support.

In recent years, the county has decreased slightly in the state for the number of abuse cases, Butcher said. She said the county went from being the fourth highest ranked in the state to seventh or eighth the past few years. She added the county is always ranked in the top 10 in the state.

“It is still a huge issue for the community,” Butcher said.