North Little Rock neighborhood divided over proposed women’s halfway house

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NORTH LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – A North Little Rock neighborhood is divided over a proposed women’s halfway house. The proposed facility would go in an existing building on Main Street. It would be for first or second time drug offenders once they get out of jail to help them learn life skills and prevent them from becoming repeat offenders.

The organization took the plans in front of the North Little Rock Planning Commission to get a special use permit so they could move forward. Despite several speaking in favor, too many opposed.

A representative with the Pulaski County Sheriff’s Office spoke in support of the rehab center, however, many residents and business owners had concerns. Bennie O’neil owns a business just next door and says he thinks it could bring more crime and questions what kinds of drug users would be living there.

“Is it meth? Is it cocaine? Is it heroine and what’s the chance that someone who is a drug offender on a very very very strong drug being rehabilitated?” O’neil asked during the meeting.

He’s also concerned it could decrease their property value.

“I’ve invested 20 years on this corner and other people have invested a longer period of time than I have so if it doesn’t work what’s going to happen to us and who’s going to want to buy property next to a drug treatment center?” O’neil said.

On the other side, several homeowners say they are for the halfway house. Misty Varnell lives on the road across from the proposed building and says it’s a great idea.

“I think it’s really cool to give somebody a second chance and I think it’s very helpful. I think it would be really good for people who need second chances,” Varnell said.

When asked if she was nervous if it would bring more crime to her neighborhood she said that’s not a concern and she thinks this will only benefit the community.

“Crime is everywhere anyway so I mean I feel like it would be helpful and people need help because a lot of times when they don’t have help that’s when they come back and do crime and stuff because they don’t have places like that,” Varnell said.

Planning commissioners rejected the proposal. Now, the project has to be sponsored by a city council member to move forward. Several council members say they need to do more research and hear from more people in the community before they make a decision.

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