NBC News –
PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) – What some Panama City residents consider a family-friendly and safe neighborhood, is now getting new neighbors.
“All the years pending since 1980, I don’t recall ever a single incident we felt uncomfortable being in that neighborhood,” long-time Garden Club resident Marty Sheehan said.
Sheehan said the non-profit organization called Oxford House is looking to lease the home at 820 Woods Avenue. According to Oxford House Florida, it’s the largest network of sober living houses anywhere dedicated to helping people kick drug and alcohol addictions. The website says it has houses in all major areas of Florida, including two others in Panama City.
We reached out to Oxford House officials, who declined to go on camera.
“Our neighborhood is concerned about issues that many times surround these types of organizations and homes. There are issues that are not good,” long-time resident Clyde Mills said.
Mills said their neighborhood is coded for single-family dwellings. Mills said having roughly nine women in the four-bedroom, two and a half bath house violates code, among other concerns. Other neighbors say with the new Oxford House being a corner house, they’re worried it will bring in more traffic, lower property values, and raise safety concerns.
“I’d be concerned for my personal safety, my physical safety, our material safety of our material properties,” said Sheehan.
“The City of Panama City has recently become aware of citizen concerns regarding a residential-zoned property in the Garden Club neighborhood. City staff is assessing the concerns as they relate to business regulations and zoning requirements.”
“We do understand that they’re not perfect, but we do understand too that they do have a rejection rate sometimes for people violating those rules,” said Mills.
Mills and Sheehan said they just want the city to reconsider putting the Oxford House in their neighborhood. Both add safety for the neighborhood children and a number of widows is also a major concern. The Oxford House website said it’s always adding new houses and are dedicated members of recovery communities all across the state.