MAPC approves Mission conditional use of property

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - A heated debate at the Jonesboro Metropolitan Area Planning Commission meeting concerning Mission Outreach, a non-profit that houses the homeless and cares for the sick, coming to Southwest Drive.

We learned that had the property been purchased just a few months sooner, the meeting wouldn't have taken place.

Those in favor of and against Mission Outreach's newest home at 800 Southwest Drive made for a packed house at the Jonesboro MAPC meeting Tuesday night.

"We're looking to offer transitional living and permanent housing," Jamie Collins, Director of the Mission explained Tuesday.

According to the Mission, 20 percent of those who used their facility in 2012 were from Craighead County.

"The need is here and it's not being met. We are serving the citizens of Craighead County in our Paragould facility currently," Assistant Director Jeremy Biggs told MAPC Commissioners.

While no one in attendance opposed what the Mission does, many were vocal in where the Mission chose in it's newest location.

"Good intentions don't always equal good planning," Adam McPike, a Jonesboro resident who lives in the area said at the meeting.

The group of concerned residents presented 80 signatures of those against the MAPC granting the Mission conditional use of the property.

Possible sex offenders at the Mission, increased crime and burdens on the school district were some of the biggest fears brought to the table.

"I have two small children, lots of people here have small children, how are we going to know if someone there has that? Who's going to foot the bill for a background check?" Dawn McPike asked.

Collins assured residents that as a 501-C3, non-profit organization, they did not accept sex-offenders and would work hand in hand with the schools and law enforcement agencies in the area.

Collins also addressed the location, saying it was key in getting people back on their feet.

"There's plenty of statistics and research to prove that if you want to change a life, take them out of their environment because you are who you hang out with," Collins said.

Debate and discussion on the issue lasted for nearly two hours and as it came down to a vote, all but one commissioner voted in favor of granting the Mission conditional use of the property.

Melody Mooney, one of those in opposition says now, she hopes to work with the Mission to avoid issues they brought up in the meeting.

"And trying to make sure that this doesn't have a negative affect on our community because we don't want it to," Mooney told Region 8 News.

Mission Outreach bought the property right around Christmas of 2013. The nursing home vacated the building in November of 2012. According to the MAPC, if the Mission had purchased the property within a year of the nursing home vacating it, they would have been able to take over the complex without going through this process.

"I think that was the point that pushed the board over," Mooney said. "They felt like almost they were obligated to okay it because if it had not expired with the year of being vacant, then they would have just been able to come in without having any of us to speak or to express our concern."

Stipulations are in place for the Mission including a one year review by the MAPC to determine that the facility isn't causing any unreasonable impacts on the surrounding community.

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