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Spotsy sets hearing on home for young mothers

A proposed religious-based group home for young mothers with substance-abuse problems could be approved in Spotsylvania County on Thursday. 

The Board of Supervisors will hold a public hearing at 6:30 p.m. on the Beauty for Ashes Women’s and Children’s Home off River Road. They might vote on the project after the hearing.

Michael and Cindy Zello of the nonprofit Teen Challenge of North Central Virginia are seeking a special-use permit to operate a “religious retreat” from an existing six-bedroom house on 61 acres. Young mothers, ages 18 and up, and their children would live there for 12 to 18 months.

The Planning Commission, which makes recommendations to supervisors, unanimously endorsed the home after a public hearing last month.

The proposal has many supporters, but several nearby residents have spoken out against it. They worry that it would draw crime to the area and reduce their property values, among other issues.

Up to 16 women and children—and two staff members—would initially live in the 6,000-square-foot home off River Road, which is owned by the nonprofit MacAnanny Foundation. The Zellos, who live in Spotsylvania, plan to build a second home on the property that could serve another 16 women and children.

The home won’t be a medical facility, the Zellos say.

If necessary, women must complete rehab or detox before moving in.

County staff is recommending approval of the project but with conditions. That includes prohibiting anyone convicted of sex offenses or other violent crimes and requiring pre-admission drug testing.

The Zellos opened a group home in 2009 on Poplar Road in Stafford County for men recovering from alcohol or drug addiction.

The Stafford Board of Supervisors actually voted against a conditional-use permit for the home, but later allowed it in a legal settlement.

A Stafford Sheriff’s Office spokesman said crime has not increased in the area as a result of the facility.

That home and the one being proposed in Spotsylvania are affiliated with the Christian-based Teen Challenge USA, which has nearly 200 residential centers across the country, including two for women and their children. The program includes discipleship training, Bible reading, recreational activities and work projects, according to Teen Challenge’s website.

Jeff Branscome: 540/374-5402