Gainesville city officials recommended an investigation into the claims that Intensive Treatment Modalities is treating sex offenders without a special zoning permit during a Gainesville City Commission policy meeting Thursday afternoon.
The city also recommended to have code enforcement officers monitor the property, at 1208 NW Sixth St. location, an area that is surrounded by seven daycare centers.
“We do have a responsibility to uphold our code, and investigate any suspicion of violation of that code,” Gainesville Mayor Lauren Poe said. “And our staff has an obligation to do so. They will be looking at ways to make sure they are doing so and defending what code exists today.”
Also during Thursday’s meeting, the commissioners decided to form a committee that will look in to amending the city zoning code. Florida laws prohibit sex-offenders from living within 1,000 feet of schools.
“It’s not specific to sex offenders; it’s not specific to pedophiles,” said Nicolle Shalley, the city attorney. “It casts a much broader net of treatment and seems to hinge, in the planner’s opinion, currently on whether a person is required to go for that treatment.”
Sally Adkins, a resident of the Oakview neighborhood, said she attended the policy meeting to attain clarification on the code and, for the safety of her family, find out what exactly is going on at ITM.
Adkins said she first became alarmed to the situation when she went over to ITM and asked them about the facility. She said this led her to look at ITM’s website, which has since been taken down, and found out that sex offender treatment is one of ITM’s specialties.
“I encourage that whatever changes to the ordinance are made that we try to be as comprehensive as possible, as far as things that could be potentially threatening to the neighbors and residence,” Adkins said.
Business owners and residents of the surrounding area made complaints that ITM was treating sex offenders at its new Northwest Sixth Street location during a May 19 meeting.
City Commissioner Craig Carter also spoke at that meeting about his visit to ITM on May 2, where Alvin Butler, ITM’s program director, gave him a tour of the facility.
Carter claims that Butler showed him the back door where sex offenders enter and the separate waiting area away from other clients.
Butler has denied these claims that ITM is treating sex offenders. Butler said via a phone interview Friday that ITM is working on arranging a meeting with city planning officials.
Butler did not attend Thursday’s policy meeting. However, Commissioner Charles Goston spoke to Butler earlier that day and also visited the location.
Goston said that during his visit to the center, ITM said that it was not treating sex offenders at the Northwest Sixth Street location, but they were being treated at another location. Goston did not inquire where.
If the situation isn’t rectified, Goston said ITM would be willing to take legal action against the city.
“They are preparing to go to war with the city, and I’m trying to make sure that if I can prevent that, I will,” Goston said. “I’ve know Mr. Butler for a long, long time. He’s not the kind of guy to back up.”