Rachel Naddor, 48, appeared before the Planning Commission on Tuesday morning to request a special land use permit to open an orphanage in a home she purchased in 1997 on Clearwater Drive, between Powers Ferry Road and Lower Roswell Road.
Naddor, who was raised in Baltimore, said she was neglected as an infant and child. Still, the group home endeavor really took hold after Naddor met her Saudi Arabian husband, Ahmed, 35, an IT engineer in computer repair.
“It is all God’s will,” Naddor said.
The couple, members of the Islamic faith, married in November 2012 and do not have any children.
Rachel Naddor gave a 10-minute presentation about her passion to help at-risk or abused children.
“This is really a calling, a mission,” Naddor said as she choked back tears and paused a few times. “It has taken a lot to get here.”
In November, Naddor formed a nonprofit organization, Deserving Peace International, which is affiliated with Unity North Atlanta Church and the Islamic Circle of North America’s Outreach Division.
“The children will learn about faith and they’ll learn how to find peace,” Naddor said. “They’ll be guided and empowered” through prayer, meditation and contemplation.
At this point, Naddor is navigating government approvals and is not sure how children would be placed in her home.
The goal is to take in international refugees, but with money constraints, Naddor said the children could be from Georgia.
The children will attend public school initially at Powers Ferry Elementary, with home schooling arranged if needed down the road, Naddor said.
A home by any other name
Naddor told the Planning Commission the home will not have any signage outside to attract attention to the house.
In fact, the goal is to place the children in the family-friendly neighborhood to allow the misplaced kids to feel normal.
“This is just a home with kids in it,” Naddor said.
Naddor’s home has four bedrooms. Upstairs are a master bedroom, an office and meditation room.
There are also two full bathrooms upstairs, one full bathroom downstairs and a “beautifully finished” basement Naddor said.
The plan would be to house two children per room, for a total of six kids as well as Naddor and her husband.
That is the maximum amount of children allowed in the home, based on the Office of Residential Child Care with the Georgia Department of Human Services.
Each child will have his or her own bed and place to store belongings, with separate boys’ and girls’ bathrooms, Naddor said.
Naddor said Cobb Fire has approved of the plans and building permits have been granted. The Naddors are only waiting on zoning approval.
If the group home is started, Naddor said the children will be provided with medical care and 24-hour supervision, with three workers rotating shifts and a few volunteers.
The Naddors personal vehicles will be stored in the enclosed carport, with only two cars at any one time parked in the driveway by staff and no street parking, Naddor promised.
A negative recommendation
Three residents from the Freywood Estates neighborhood spoke against the proposed group home Tuesday.
Louie George, who lives off Robin Lane, said the area is an established single-family residential neighborhood.
“How can eight people live in a 1,500-square-foot house?” George asked, pointing to the small-sized bedrooms of the homes built in the 1950s.
George also expressed concern about Naddor expanding the group home operation into the back of her secluded and wooded property in the future.
“I think this is an effort to get the foot in the door,” George said.
Denise Merritt, who lives off Freydale Road, said most of the people living in the quiet community are older residents and she hopes to keep it that way.
“I think the neighborhood is the best neighborhood in Cobb,” Merritt said.
The Planning Commission unanimously denied the special land-use permit, 4-0, with Planning Commissioner Christi Trombetti absent.
Despite the eye contact from the members on the board, Naddor said she did not feel her case was heard.
“They denied it before they even listened,” Naddor said. “Maybe my vision is so big it blows people away and they can’t handle it.”
Naddor also said she felt misled in the process, especially by Chairman Mike Terry, who represents her area.
“(Terry) led me to believe he was on my side,” Naddor said.
Terry said he had numerous discussions with Naddor “at length” and came out for a tour of the home.
During the hearing, Terry said he had been inundated with emails from people against the permit being granted, with at least a dozen in the last few days.
It is hard to approve a special land use permit “if there is wide-spread opposition” by the neighbors, Terry said.
The only group home for children approved in Cobb is The Calvary Children’s Home off Lost Mountain Road, which sits on 13 acres and is home to 23 children in multiple buildings.
“That is not at all what we are talking about here,” Terry said. “There is just no precedent for this.”
In the end, Terry suggested the Naddors check into the state’s foster-care program or consider international adoption to bring a couple children into the home.
“Their hearts are in the right place,” Terry said.