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Residents oppose plans for home

Opposition is growing to plans to place a home for mentally ill adults in a southeast Largo neighborhood, city officials say. Officials of the company proposing the home hope to calm residents' fears at a public hearing Monday. Such a meeting is required by the city whenever a developer plans to make major changes in the use of any property.

Boley Inc., a non-profit mental health organization, plans to convert what is now an office building at 15733 Bedford Circle E into a home for as many as 14 mentally ill adults.

Largo Mayor George McGough said two people against the proposal approached him this week.

"They indicated they were circulating a petition which they would bring to the commission," he said.

Commissioner Bob Jackson and Community Development Director Ric Goss said they also have had calls from residents who oppose the home. People have said they fear it will lower property values, officials said.

"People think I can wave a magic wand and stop a project from going through," McGough said.

"Actually we have very little control here as long as they comply with development codes."

Paula Hays, director of Boley Inc., said residents have no reason to object to the proposed home.

Five similar homes, including one in Largo, operate in Pinellas County, Ms. Hays said.

"I'm hoping we have a lot of people at our meeting next Monday, so we can tell them about the kinds of people who are in our programs," Ms. Hays said. "Often people don't understand."

Boley Inc. was recognized recently by the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill as one of two exemplary programs in Florida.

According to a site plan proposal at City Hall, Boley plans to convert the office building to a house with six bedrooms.

The residents would range in age from 18 to 54. One or two staff members always would be at the home with residents. Residents would be transported to and from work in a van.

The compatibility meeting is at 2 p.m. Monday at 15733 Bedford Circle E. Boley representatives and city officials will attend the meeting to answer questions.