The Mary Hall Freedom House has reached an agreement with the city of Sandy Springs regarding its dispute over the nonprofit's violation of the city's zoning ordinances.
The Freedom House is a Sandy Springs-based nonprofit whose mission is “empower women to end the cycle of addictions, poverty and homelessness for themselves and for their children,” according to its website.
Since 2017 it has been cited three times for violating the city’s zoning laws by having more than 100 women and children living in 33 condo units at the Reserve of Dunwoody. The Freedom House paid a fine for the first violation, the second one was dismissed by a judge and the third one, for having drug treatment programs inside its condo units and for its office operating incorrectly based on city zoning laws, was still pending.
Neighbors have complained about the Freedom House’s move to lease the units owned by the for-profit Freedom Village LLC, saying the previous tenants were abruptly displaced and the new ones have kept them up all night with noisy behavior.
In December the Freedom House filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court’s Northern District of Georgia, Atlanta Division, where it claimed it has been discriminated against by the city. In addition to the city and Mayor Rusty Paul, the suit named Sandy Springs City Attorney Dan Lee, City Solicitor William Riley and Community Development Director Ginger Sottile as co-defendants.
In an emailed statement, the city announced the agreement between it and the Freedom House, which came following a hearing before Sandy Springs Municipal Court Judge Joseph Burford earlier in the day, when he approved it.
"The city received complaints from residents of Mary Hall Freedom House as well as residents of Dunwoody Reserve, located at 9400 Roberts Drive, related to the social services provided to Mary Hall Freedom House tenants at Dunwoody Reserve, which were in conflict with the city’s zoning ordinances," the city stated. "None of the Mary Hall Freedom House residents had a lease that would allow them rights of occupancy because tenancy was directly connected to the treatment they were receiving. The city’s citations sought to separate the commercial provision of services at the Roberts Drive location from the commercial operation at 8595 Roswell Road.
"Mary Hall Freedom House has agreed to separate the services they provide from their client’s occupancy of the condominiums at 9400 Roberts Drive. Mary Hall Freedom House has agreed that the tenants at 9400 Roberts Drive will receive leases of at least six months and those leases will comply with all (homeowners association) rules. Mary Hall Freedom House has agreed to apply to rezone their offices on Roswell Road to comply with the city’s ordinances. The Mary Hall Freedom House board of directors has issued a resolution adopting and agreeing to this settlement, stating its intent to effectuate its terms. In addition, Mary Hall Freedom House has dismissed the lawsuit it previously filed against the city and city officials."
Lee said he's happy the agreement was reached.
“The city’s goal in taking legal action was compliance with the zoning law, which safeguards not only the character of the neighborhood but the residents who live there, including women enrolled in rehabilitation programming conducted by Mary Hall Freedom House,” he said.
Of the agreement, Freedom House founder and CEO Lucy Hall said, "I'm satisfied. Someone asked me if I was happy about it. Who would be happy? None of this made me happy. I am satisfied and thankful that it's over. Praise Jesus. Praise God. It's done. Unfortunately (the agreement) didn't happen months ago, as you know, but it happened.
"Evidently there's something (in the city's zoning ordinances) that says they can't do (certain) services in the apartment. You came to the apartment and you saw that they never did services in the apartment. We can't discontinue something we've never done. I'm grateful that we both have satisfied and we can walk way. It's done."