Author Topic: Residents Oppose Sierra Nevada Teen Ranch  (Read 1868 times)

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Offline Deborah

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Residents Oppose Sierra Nevada Teen Ranch
« on: December 12, 2007, 02:23:36 PM »
Washoe OKs at-risk teen ranch
Posted: 12/8/2007
The Washoe County Board of Adjustment approved a highly controversial care facility for up to 40 at-risk teens Thursday night to be built in the Bedell Flat area north of Reno.

Marvin and Jan Neal hope to build a faith-based school and live-in facility for teens who are not delinquents but whose personal safety and welfare are in jeopardy.

Teenagers who agree to live at the Sierra Nevada Teen Ranch will be directed there by Family Court, Juvenile Court, or by parents relinquishing custody. The teen ranch is not acting as an incarceration facility and only is meant to provide supervision.

But at the meeting, Peter Hackbusch provided a stack of opposition letters from residents he said totaled more than 150.

"This site is just not good for a group care facility," said Hackbusch, speaking on behalf of the Sierra Ranchos Property Owners Association.

"The planning department and the Board of Adjustment Band-Aided and patched this project into existence with extreme and unreal conditions. The community is going to be sitting around waiting to see if (the project) crushes under its own weight."

Marvin Neal said the entire project would cost $10 million. When Board of Adjustment members asked about the source of funding, Marvin Neal said God would provide.

"We're not really afraid of that $10 million price tag," Marvin Neal said.

The ranch is expected to be completed in several stages by 2017, and the Neals said they plan to pay for new structures as they grow, starting with facilities for 10 kids.

The off-the-grid location of the proposed Sierra Nevada Teen Ranch was the source of much concern.

For almost five hours, discussion ranging from solutions to what-if scenarios and impassioned arguments for and against the Sierra Nevada Teen ranch filled the meeting's public comment phase. An audience of almost 50 people stayed for the entire debate.

Concerns that it could take wheeled emergency vehicles more than a hour to respond were soothed in part by an added condition that an emergency medical technician would be on staff at all times, and a basketball court would act as a helicopter landing pad for air medical evacuations.

The Sierra Nevada Teen Ranch also would be responsible for road improvements and maintenance of Bird Spring Road, the ranch's primary access road. They will have to keep a snowplow on site and upgrade the road to compacted gravel.

But many residents worry that it's not enough.

"The roads are impassable in the winter," said Heather Benjamin, 29, a Sierra Ranchos resident, of the gravel and dirt roads branching off of Lemmon Valley Road, Pyramid Highway and Red Rock Road.

Additionally, Benjamin said the effects of the teen ranch traffic and pollution on the surrounding ecology haven't been examined. Antelope populations, deer migration and a variety of other wildlife can be observed in the Bedell Flat area, Benjamin said.

Others worried about the teen ranch administrators' lack of qualifications.

"This project is based on good intentions only," Hackbusch said.

Marvin and Jan Neal said they will have to meet Washoe County's licensing requirements before they can open.

"For the past 20 years, I've devoted my life to helping at-risk teenagers through volunteering my time," Marvin Neal said.

He said he volunteers his time at church on Sunday, Bible study classes on Wednesday and by mentoring children. While mentoring kids and teens in a one-on-one environment, he said he heard stories of their broken homes and began to dream up the Sierra Nevada Teen Ranch.

"I know first hand that we need to do a whole lot more, and I stepped up to the plate," Marvin Neal said. "I want to spend the rest of my life building a facility like this to change these numbers."

Marvin Neal said 80 percent of people who go through ranch-style care facilities go on to have successful lives, which is better than the 20 percent success rate in the penal system.

Friends, co-workers and fellow church members attested to the Neals' good character during public comment including LaDawn Malone who said Marvin Neal brought together all the different churches of the area to work with youths.

"He knows what these kids need," Malone said. "I watch him deal with these kids on a weekly basis."

Brenda Taylor, who owns the closest home to the proposed teen center about two miles away, said she worries what will happen if the teenagers decide to wander into their neighborhood.

"Mr. Neal said these ranches have an 80 percent success rate," Brenda Taylor said. "I'm worried about the 20 percent who decide they no longer want to stay there."

Taylor said she also worried about walk-away teens who might encounter the traps, rattlesnakes or the harsh climate of the desert for a prolonged period of time.

No similar services

"My son is the type of kid Sierra Nevada Teen Ranch is trying to help," Ginger Cape said during public comment. "If I had a choice, I would have put my son in it. The school district is not set up for students like (my son)."

Cape said her son was placed in special education upon reaching third grade and was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder and Oppositional and Defiant Disorder when he became an adolescent. He was suspended seven or eight times per year in junior high school, but none of his misbehavior was criminal in nature.

"We're sending our kids out of state and the money and resources are going with them because we don't have anything like that here," Jan Neal said.

Ken Stine, a former resident of Rancho Haven, said during his 33 years in local law enforcement, he wished there had been a facility like the Sierra Nevada Teen Ranch.

"From a law enforcement perspective, I think it's a wonderful idea because we have no place to put kids like her son except Wittenberg Hall, and that's more of a criminal facility," Stine said. "I would have loved to have a place to put kids like this because cops can work for kids, too. There's a bunch of kids out there that are on the fence. They could go bad, they could go good, and a place like this will help them go good."

Many residents worried that the feeling of safety and the charm of the remote area will change.

"We moved to Rancho Haven to be among like-minded people who enjoy horse riding by day and star-gazing by night," Rancho Haven resident Susan Reaney said. "If I had known this property would be built in this area, my husband and I would never have looked at this property."

But Marvin Neal said they would not knowingly accept teenagers who are drug addicts or felons.

"We would not knowingly accept a felon out there," Marvin Neal said. "Who's to say that we get all the records? I think that possibility (of housing a felon) could exist, but it's highly unlikely."

Appeals are likely

With the amount of community opposition to the project, Hackbusch said he was disheartened that the project sailed through with a majority decision of 4-1 in favor of the project. Only Board Member Gary Feero voted against it.

"(More than 150 letters of opposition) doesn't sound like a lot, but you have to factor in the size of our community," Hackbusch said. "You won't find another project that has that level of community involvement."

Hackbusch estimates there are 600 homes in the area, but many property owners possess multiple houses. In Sierra Rancho alone there are 212 lots and 170 owners.

Hackbusch said he's not certain if the local homeowners associations will decide to appeal the decision to the Washoe County Commission because it hasn't been put to a vote yet.

"It will probably be appealed," Jan Neal said of the Board of Adjustment's decision. "We'll have to do it again with the Washoe County Commission, but it will be just another bump in the process until we reach fruition."

Jan Neal said other care facilities of the same nature have encountered strong opposition when first developed, only to be enthusiastically embraced by the community later.

"Eventually, people in the community will become involved and it'll be their kids and their home," Jan Neal said. "We're anxious to cross that bridge."

Marvin Neal said even though he's aware he has a mountain of work ahead of him to make the Sierra Nevada Teen Ranch a reality, he was delighted by Thursday night's victory.

"I'm just very moved that, with all that we went through, we finally have a green light to go ahead," Marvin Neal said. "Though it's not done yet, it's cause for celebration."
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 07:00:00 PM by Guest »
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Offline Deborah

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Residents Oppose Sierra Nevada Teen Ranch
« Reply #1 on: December 12, 2007, 02:29:22 PM »
Residents split on faith-based teen center
Posted: 11/14/2007
Modified: 11/14/2007
A local Christian couple announced Monday that they want to open what they called a "glorified foster home" for up to 40 troubled teens in the Bedell Flat area north of Reno.

A fiery public comment session ensued at the North Valley Citizen Advisory Board meeting with residents arguing for and against the Sierra Nevada Teen Ranch. More than 100 attended the meeting.

Ranch co-founder Marvin Neal said they plan to enroll teenagers who need homes and want to live in the Christian care community. Neal said teens who have committed felony offenses would not be allowed.

"We have talked to several family court judges who have said they could fill (the Sierra Nevada Teen Ranch) in a day if we were ready," he said.

Those against the proposal cited concerns about safety, passable roads, declining property values, no perimeter fence to keep teens on the property and a lack of the administrators' qualifications. Many said they wouldn't feel safe to continue leaving their doors unlocked and keys in their vehicles if the facility were built.

"Nobody can guarantee that a walk-away will not occur, and that could turn into something horrible," Red Rock resident Jim McGill said. "I don't care whether this facility is Christian, Buddhist or Martian."

Others said the Christian teen ranch, located two miles from the nearest home, would provide necessary services to help meet the needs of homeless and troubled teens.

"It's the spirit of fear that's breaking apart this room," Stead resident Shawn Lady said. "You are making these children, who need help, into absolute monsters ... If you don't help these kids, you'll be paying for them in prison."

Red Rock resident Patti Reslock said this kind of project is allowable on land zoned general rural.

"(The county) cannot deny (your project) based on fear," Reslock said in favor of the project. "What may or may not happen is no reason to deny it."

Others said the remote location of the ranch could be a liability to its occupants' safety. Pete Hackbach, speaking on behalf of the Sierra Rancho Housing Association, said deaths have occurred in the remote area because of delayed police and paramedic response times.

Hackbach said residents in the area all have been stranded in their homes for three and four days during bad winter weather. If an emergency were to occur at the ranch, Hackbach said he didn't see how they could be evacuated.

Washoe County requirements will dictate the quality of the road, fire safety precautions and water access.

Co-founder Jan Neal said the dirt road to the site will be improved and a helipad will be installed in case of emergencies. They also are looking into snowmobiles and horse sleighs if the winter weather makes the roads impassable. Marvin Neal said they haven't decided what level of first-aid training the staff would have.

Marvin Neal said he doesn't have all of the qualifications needed for the facility, but plans to hire adequately trained staff or partner with other successful teen homes for training. He said he has never run a facility similar to the teen ranch but has worked as a juvenile detention facility chaplain.

Marvin Neal also said he once was on the same path as the kids he hopes to help.

"It's not blind faith," Jan Neal said. "There are enough of these programs up and running to see it can work."

While the program is not affiliated with a specific church, the Neals said the teen ranch is faith-based and they will teach according to the universal church of Jesus Christ. They said the program will be funded by a combination of private and church donations, grants and other programs.

"They have love and true concern for other people," Animal Ark co-founder Diana Hiibel said.

Hiibel said she has known the Neals for 10 years from their participation in the Sparks Christian Fellowship Church.

"Whatever project they take on, they give it their all," Hiible said. "(Marvin Neal) feels like he's being led by God to do this."

The Neals said they chose not to pursue a similar project in Warms Spring in 2003 because the neighbors were too close.

"I arrived with an open mind," Bedell Flat resident Bob Reaney said. "(But) we all had to pull this out of you ... It doesn't feel like it's been as well thought out as we would hope. That's why there's such a feeling of fear in this room."

North Valleys CAB Vice Chairman Glen Pedersen made the motion to forward the comments made by citizens to county officials rather than make a recommendation.

"There's too many unanswered questions here," Pedersen said. "Everything must be made available to the county for their consideration."

All voted in favor of the motion except North Valleys CAB member Jack Selin, who said he would rather have the board recommend denying the project since most residents spoke against the project.
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 07:00:00 PM by Guest »
Hidden Lake Academy, after operating 12 years unlicensed will now be monitored by the state. Access information on the Federal Class Action lawsuit against HLA here:

Offline Che Gookin

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Residents Oppose Sierra Nevada Teen Ranch
« Reply #2 on: December 12, 2007, 06:24:27 PM »
Can Jesus cure my foot fungus?
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 07:00:00 PM by Guest »