The city of Sandy Springs plans to take a controversial nonprofit to court over lack of a business license for using condos as transitional housing.
The owner of Mary Hall Freedom House, which provides several services out of condos it purchased earlier this year, said it does have proper licenses and disputes the city’s allegations.
Mary Hall Freedom House, which helps women with homelessness and addiction issues, in May bought more than a third of the 90-unit Reserve of Dunwoody condos at 9400 Roberts Drive. The purchase immediately drew criticism for displacing many tenants and has drawn complaints from residents for all-hours activity.
The city has given the group 33 citations for operating with a business license — one for each of condos it owns, city spokesperson Sharon Kraun said.
A court hearing on the citations has been set for November, she said.
The condos were purchased by a for-profit company called Freedom Hall, LLC and are leased to the nonprofit, Kraun said.
Additionally, the group promotes the same condos for several uses, including veteran assistance, domestic abuse shelter and rehab, causing potential legal issues with their funding, Kraun said. State law prohibits mixing grant funds and using them for different purposes, she said.
“If you’ve got battered women, you don’t put drug addicts next to them,” she said.
Lucy Hall-Gainer didn’t answer specific questions and said the issues are all a “misunderstanding.”
Hall-Gainer, who started the organization in 1996, said they are trying to work with the city to come to an agreement.
“I feel like we have some differences and we’re praying for a resolution,” she said.
The organization serves about 200 women and 80 children with transitional housing in Sandy Springs, Atlanta, Alpharetta, College Park and Roswell. It also offers career development services, mental healthcare, daycare and medical care, according to its website.
Hall-Gainer said she hopes they are able to work out the issues with the city before it goes to court.
“I just don’t think they understand what we do,” she said. “I believe prayerfully we can resolve this.”
The organization has existed for 22 years in Sandy Springs and is headquartered a block north in the same zoning area, she said. Problems only arose when they decided to purchase the condos, she said.
The condo board’s attorney, George Nowack, said they are basically in a holding pattern while they wait to see the outcome of the city’s action.
“From my client’s perspective, we obviously hope they are successful,” Nowack said.
An effort to declare the operation was not permitted in its zoning district was unsuccessful, Nowack said. A judge ruled early this year that it was a permitted use, he said.
Condo owners previously complained that large groups of woman and frequent van traffic were disturbing the complex, but Nowack said he has not heard any recent complaints.
MHFH counts many major organizations and companies among its donors, including the Sandy Springs Society; the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development and Department of Veterans Affairs; such large corporations as Wells Fargo, The Home Depot and Coca-Cola; and the governments of Atlanta and Fulton County.