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Home near Payson wins county’s nod

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PROVO — Despite objections from neighbors and a Payson official, a home for teenage boys, possibly including sex offenders, won county approval Thursday.

Craig Riding, of Axiom Youth Services, applied for a special exception to convert a home in a neighborhood just outside Payson into a residential treatment center.

Utah County's Board of Adjustments ruled Riding will have to meet several conditions before he can get a business license. County officials said Riding already met standard county conditions.

The hearing was held to determine if he could meet additional conditions for a special exception to zoning laws.

"The courts have said that if (applicants) meet the criteria you can't really say no to them," Utah County Planner Jeff Mendenhall told the Deseret Morning News.

Opponents failed to convince board members Gary Carlson, Mark Brady and Chairman Randy Christiansen that the treatment center would hurt the neighborhood — and property values — or that it would be inconsistent with the surrounding area.

The board said Riding will have to:

Keep a youth-staff ratio of four-to-one both day and night.

Restrict admissions to youth sent to the home by a court.

Meet fire marshal requirements from both the county and Payson City.

Add an electrical backup system to keep security and fire protection working if the power goes out.

The home cannot house serious sex offenders, the board ordered. It could house what is termed a "level four" sex offender. Serious offenders are ranked from level five to level eight.

The home is not intended primarily for sex offenders, Riding said. That could be a secondary diagnosis, he said, but other diagnoses will also be considered.

Concerned about safety, some residents called for tighter control, even a barbed wire fence around the home.

"This isn't a prison," Riding said. "It's not a detention center. It's a residential treatment center. They will be taught and reintegrated into society."

Riding's attorney, Keith Weaver, questioned real estate agents' opinions regarding value. Appraisers can't give an opinion of value unless it is researched, he said.

Riding said he did not know when the home would be ready to open.

The home sits on five acres, which residents complained was too small for a group home for boys.

E-MAIL: jeffh@desnews.com