UPDATE | Home for adults with developmental disabilities looks to go into subdivision in Putnam County

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HURRICANE, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- UPDATE 5/16/19 @ 6:30 p.m.
Outside a proposed home for adults with developmental disabilities, there has been a show of support from another group that offers similar services.

According to paperwork filed in Putnam County and with the state, Starlight Behavioral Health is looking to put a group home, focused on treated adults with developmental disabilities, in a house located in Knollview Estates in Hurricane, West Virginia.

"We're not here to take a side with the community or with Starlight who is going to be opening the home in this area," said Cheryl Herdman, who is the owner of Hopewell Community Services. "We're here to speak for the vulnerable folks that can't always speak for themselves."

The rally was put on by Hopewell Community Services. It happened after a conversation started Tuesday about the proposed home in the Knollview Estates development in Hurricane.

Starlight Behavioral Health is planning on opening a four-bed home in the neighborhood that would help and house adults with a wide-range of developmental disabilities.

"We are just here to encourage peace and for people to bridge those gaps and communicate and get the best outcome for those we serve," Herdman said.

Neighbors on Tuesday spoke at a county commission meeting, saying their concerns weren't about who would be living there, but instead about how a home run by a business could set up in their neighborhood.

However, according to state law, group homes are not considered businesses and can't be regulated by local governments.

"I think we can certainly understand that people have fears based on the miscommunication that has happened here," Herdman said. "I can't speak for Starlight and I can't speak for the community, because I don't live here, but we can say that your fears are probably completely unfounded. And if given the opportunity, I think that the individuals can show you that."

That's why Hopewell Community Services came out Thursday, to create a conversation between neighbors and Starlight, the group opening the home, to clear up any misconceptions.

"We're not here to add any fuel to these concerns," Herdman said. "I am sure there are valid concerns on both parts. We just encourage these two groups of people to come together and communicate."

Talk of the home came about after Senate Bill 575 called for six different facilities like this to be put in across the state.

The Healthcare Authority determined that Putnam County was an area that needed a facility like this because there hasn't been one in the county since the 1980s.

Neighbors in one community are upset over where a group home is going.

According to paperwork filed in Putnam County and with the state, Starlight Behavioral Health is looking to put a group home, focused on treating adults with developmental disabilities, in a house located in Knollview Estates in Hurricane.

Starlight Behavioral Health tells WSAZ the reason for the location is because they want those they serve around neighbors to socialize and live in a community.

However, neighbors say they have a lot of questions with the location and feel that the process has been pushed through quickly without them getting much notification.

According to the paperwork, the ICF/IDD group home will have four beds and will house four adults with developmental disabilities. Starlight says it will provide training and oversight of the patients with no fewer than two awake staff members at all times.

Starlight says there are so many people with developmental disabilities on a wait list in West Virginia to receive services. They also say that they operate other facilities, including some in Huntington, and felt that Putnam County was a good location for one of these homes.

The issue was brought up at a Putnam County Commission meeting on Tuesday, where neighbors voiced their concerns about the house.

Their concerns focused around the fact that the home would be right in the middle of a subdivision and the fact that the facility would be located within a couple miles of the Prestera Center on Teays Valley Road.

However, the Putnam County Attorney spoke at the meeting, saying according to state law, the house is allowed to be in the subdivision, citing Senate Bill 575, which states "both a group residential facility and a group residential home shall be a permitted residential use of property for the purposes of zoning and shall be a permitted use in all zones or district."

The law also says county commissions and other governing groups cannot require a special permit for these facilities to open. Neighbors say they are worried about the future of the facility with the special permit being taken away.

Commissioners though said they still had several questions they wanted answered and motioned to file an injunction until they could get more information.

They also filed a motion to send a resolution to lawmakers to change state law, saying it is vague in some areas.

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