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Mental health plans drive reader crazy

Editor's view
By: Don Chaddock, The Telegraph
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Our story on the planned apartments for the mentally ill (“Mental health facility concerns residents,” page A1, Folsom Telegraph, Aug. 12) prompted a reader letter far too long to print. Mike Allison, who describes himself as a 25-year resident of Folsom, wrote that we didn’t go far enough in our coverage of the 19-unit facility slated to go in at 809 Bidwell St. in Folsom. Here’s just a sample of what he wrote. “How about telling the public why the city council unanimously ignored the recommendation of the planning commission? That seems more interesting and important than giving Mr. Powell another opportunity to lobby. How about mentioning the more realistic concerns of the residents … like the appearance of the apartments and the effect on the quality of life in the neighborhood, having 19 units filled with low-income unemployed folks ‘hanging out’ on their porches and walking back and forth to Circle K to buy cigarettes and beer five times a day, clunker cars piled all over their lot … and so on? … We can handle the truth. Some of us will even read an article that is more than a few hundred words long.” Thank you for your letter, Mike. As someone who has covered many city council meetings in my 20 years in the ink-slinging biz, it is important to note that planning commissioners are appointed by the city council. They are also not the final authority on a project. If something is approved or denied by the commission, the decision may be appealed to the council. Council members have the option to override their commissioners. If a project fits the use of the zoning, has all of its proper permits and meets all of the legal requirements, the council probably had little choice but to approve it or risk facing a lawsuit. To make sure I am correct in my assessment, I phoned someone closer to the matter. Mayor Steve Miklos said occupancy of the housing project (meaning those who would reside in the facility) was never discussed. “We could not turn the project down (based on) the occupancy,” he said. “It’s discriminatory and it’s illegal. … They met all the criteria.” He said the council approved the project because the planning commission had recommended denial based on certain conditions (such as set backs and saving trees). The project proponent amended the plans to meet those conditions, resulting in the council’s approval. “This went through several public hearings at the city council as well as the planning commission,” Miklos said. CRIME BEAT The Telegraph strives to stay on top of criminal activity so we can accurately inform our readers. Recently, Bicycle Planet was the target of thieves. The bike bandits rode off with more than $20,000 worth of merchandise in just a few weeks. “Someone broke in through our front door and stole five bikes,” said shop owner Lynda Purser. “Then again … someone broke our window and took at least four more. This last incident was a copy of a robbery we had two months ago.” She tells me Folsom Police later recovered one of the bicycles. She’s asking residents to help keep an eye on local businesses. If you see suspicious activity outside a shop in your neighborhood, or as you’re driving by, give the police a call. “I’m not sure what anyone can do,” Purser said. “Just make sure the public is aware and watching out for small businesses in Folsom.” Editor Don Chaddock can be reached at donc@goldcountrymedia.com.