Group files lawsuit over use of former nursing home

Published 12:00 am Saturday, August 26, 2006


At one time 515 Mabry St. was

a convalescent center. Things were quiet. Dunn’s Nursing Home occupants were slow-paced.

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Area residents are going to court against its owner because of its new tenants.

Today the two-story, 40,000 square foot facility is called Circle of Love. It was purchased in the summer of 2004 at a cost of $200,000 by Ellwood Community Church, and is an outreach ministry/investment of the church.

The aged facility has been given a near complete overhaul, with additional showers, kitchens and a game room that when finished will include pool tables and a big screen TV, according to Ellwood’s pastor, the Rev. Gary Crum.

An attorney for the Old Town

Association has filed a temporary restraining order in Dallas County Circuit Court, which alleges the church entered an agreement with a college to provide housing for athletes, and is not zoned for such. The matter is scheduled for a hearing at 2 p.m. Wednesday.

There are currently 37 occupants of the residential living facility, which was overgrown and dilapidated, complete with holes in the ceiling.

It has the capacity of housing more than 60 tenants. In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, the church opened the doors of the vacant structure, nearly complete with its interior renovation, to 60 evacuees from the Gulf Coast, Mississippi and Louisiana.

Area residents, represented through the Old Town Association, took their concerns to the Selma City Council in July.

During that meeting Rev. Crum told city officials and representatives from Old Town his church was not operating a dormitory.

“We’d hear so much rumor and didn’t know what was going on. Kids were moving in this weekend,” said Nancy Bennett “They’ve moved ball players in it, but they said it was not going to be a dorm. ”

Crum said the project as been a labor of love, and is an outreach ministry of the church. He said the church has not borrowed money or taken funds from the city, as the rumor mill would have it.

He also says he never entered an agreement with Wallace Community College Selma to provide housing.

“This is not a dormitory. This is residential living,” said Crum, showing the renovations made to the building. “Families at the church adopted a room. They did the painting.”

While Crum insists the old Dunn’s Nursing Home is not a dorm, some of its occupants are students from WCCS.

There are also tenants who are not college students. There are residential rules similar to a dorm, complete with round-the-clock staffed monitoring. Visitors must sign in, and occupants agree to abide by specified rules of conduct.

While their rules are designed to protect the community from the behavior of the tenants, the tenants have been targeted lately. One night last week two of the tenants’ cars were broken into.

According to the City of Selma license inspector’s office, 515 Mabry St. is zoned R-50. The area is zoned for single family dwellings, residential consisting of residential structures consisting of 2-3 and 4 family units, and apartments for any number of families. Uses prohibited under the current zoning include hotels, coffee shops, dining rooms, hotels, offices, lounges and nightclubs.

The church’s attorney, April England Albright, met with area residents last week. The Old Town Association has hired J. Garrison Thompson as its attorney, who filed the restraining order in court.