Commissioners deny woman’s request to operate orphanage
by Rachel Gray
April 16, 2014 04:00 AM | 3576 views | 14 14 comments | 15 15 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Rachel Naddor, executive director of Deserving Peace International Inc., and her husband, Ahmed El Makki, enjoy a warm sunny day at their home in Marietta in a quiet neighborhood off Powers Ferry Road. After an initial split vote Tuesday morning, Cobb commissioners denied Naddor’s request to operate an orphanage for at-risk Muslim youth out of her home.<br>Staff/Kelly J. Huff
Rachel Naddor, executive director of Deserving Peace International Inc., and her husband, Ahmed El Makki, enjoy a warm sunny day at their home in Marietta in a quiet neighborhood off Powers Ferry Road. After an initial split vote Tuesday morning, Cobb commissioners denied Naddor’s request to operate an orphanage for at-risk Muslim youth out of her home.
Staff/Kelly J. Huff
MARIETTA — After an initial split vote Tuesday morning, Cobb commissioners denied an east Cobb woman’s request to operate an orphanage for at-risk Muslim youth out of her home.

Rachel Naddor, 48, was hoping to start a group home for neglected children out of the house she purchased in 1997 on Clearwater Drive, between Powers Ferry and Lower Roswell roads.

Naddor, and her Saudi Arabian husband, Ahmed, 35, members of the Islamic faith, married in November 2012 and do not have any children.

Last 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.

Naddor said the home would take in international refugees, with the greatest need being in the Muslim community. The goal will be to Americanize the foreign children by helping them to adapt to a more modern life in the United States.

“The opposition seems to be afraid we will convert their kids,” Naddor said. “We are not going to take these kids and turn them into jihadists.”

Naddor told the commissioners the point is to stop catastrophes perpetrated by neglected and abused kids who were raised under the wrong teachings of Islam.

“Not taking care of these kids will cause you bigger problems than caring for them,” Naddor said.

Orphanage or foster home?

The first vote to deny a special land-use permit for the group home was split 2-2, with Commissioners Lisa Cupid and Helen Goreham opposed. Chairman Tim Lee was absent from Tuesday’s zoning hearing.

Goreham quickly amended her vote and the permit was denied 3-1, with Cupid still opposed.

The 2,200-square-foot home has four bedrooms, with a master bedroom, an office and meditation room upstairs. 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, along with Naddor and her husband.

“Everyone can rest assured the kids will be quiet and well behaved,” Naddor said.

With only two or three kids in the beginning, the couple would provide most of the care, Naddor said, with no on-street parking for volunteers or staff who would be added in the future.

Commissioner Bob Ott, who represents the district where the Naddors live, led Tuesday’s discussion.

“I am very familiar with the neighborhood,” Ott said. “The intensity is a little too much for the neighborhood.”

Commissioners JoAnn Birrell and Goreham compared the intent of the Naddors to a family providing foster care. If the couple decided to provide foster care, there would be no permit for the commissioners to approve.

Cobb Zoning Division Manager John Pederson said the county’s code on the number of occupants for a home is based on the number of adults, not children.

It is the specific group home ordinance that deals with dwellings run by a philanthropic organization for more than four kids, Pederson said.

If the Naddors were only going to house four kids, there would be no need for a special land-use permit, no signs in the yard or public hearings for disgruntled neighbors.

Naddor said the couple needs to have six children to be considered a “childcare institution,” a label that brings more funding and grants.

Single-family living

At the April 1 meeting before the Planning Commission, Naddor had to choke back tears and paused a few times while speaking about her mission.

But Tuesday morning, Naddor spoke with a strong and sharp voice as she read from a prepared statement about why the community has not accepted her cause.

“The only reason I can come up with is people are filled with unfounded fear and a lack of understanding,” Naddor said.

Nine residents were at Tuesday’s meeting in opposition to the group home.

Louie George, who has lived off Robin Lane since 1975, said the area is a 60-year-old neighborhood with 200 ranch-style homes.

“While the intent for caring for the children is a noble one, this is not the place for a group home,” George said.

Carolyn Warner, who lives off Freydale Road, was also against changing the single-family dwelling.

“We are constantly in a battle to maintain the single-use zoning in our neighborhood,” Warner said.

The recent economic recession caused east Cobb property values to go down, Warner said, so neighbors began creating “duplex homes” by converting upstairs rooms and basements into apartments.

Warner said if this practice continues, private investors will further divide the area.

“It is time for the country to send a message,” Warner said. “We are going to be proactive, not reactive” to maintain east Cobb’s established neighborhoods.

Comments-icon Post a Comment
Wast Cobber
April 17, 2014
Mr. and Mrs. Naddor,

I am opposed to your variance request on the grounds that a group home is not proper for the neighborhood. I would be opposed to this regardless of the religious intentions of the variance. I am however horrified by some of the ignorant/racists commenters on this message thread who seem to want to make this a racial issue.

I can tell that your heart is in the right place, however I would encourage you to find a property that will not require a zoning variance.

I'm saddened that racist elements have reared their ugly heads and have distorted the debate from most people's true objections. Please understand that those comments do not represent the majority of Cobb Countians.

I wish you all the best in your future endeavors and hope that you accomplish your goals in providing a positive influence in young people's lives. May God bless you and your family.
Rachel Naddor
April 17, 2014
Dear Cobb County Neighbor,

Thank you so much for your thoughtful message. I do understand that a few people's comments do not represent the larger group.

First, I'd like to make clear for my husband's sake that we do not share a last name. I use my birth name of Naddor while my husband Ahmed's last name is El Makki. His family's origin is Sudan. He was, however, born and raised in Saudi Arabia.

Second, I understand the concern of having a "high-resident home" in a quiet, established neighborhood. I have enjoyed living in this neighborhood for the past 17 years. The term "group home" is a term used in the Zoning Code as a classification stating the following: "Group home means a dwelling unit, operated by an affiliate of a national, regional, state or county organization with a philanthropic mission, shared by four or fewer persons, excluding resident staff, who live together as a single housekeeping unit and in a long term, family-like environment in which staff persons provide care, education and participation in community activities, under a structured and scheduled plan that must be provided to the county, for the residents with the primary goal of enabling the residents to live as independently as possible in order to reach their maximum potential under the direction and guidance of a designated managing caregiver, designated as such by the affiliate organization, who must be a resident of the group home and available by telephone on a 24-hour basis in case of complaints...."

We are permitted to have a group home on this property. The reason for the Temporary Land Use Permit application was to request an increase from a maximum of four children (3-5 years old) to six. If the permit had been granted, we would have been allowed to house these six small children for a 2-year period, after which we would have had to re-apply or revert to "normal" residential use.

The reason for wanting to increase the number of children to six is that in that case we would be considered by the Department of Human Services to be a Child Caring Institution, which is eligible for considerably more funding and support than a foster home or group home. Foster parents receive only a partial reimbursement for a child's expenses.

My husband is still new to the country and we are not in a financial position to purchase another home. In December 2013 we had signed a lease on a Powder Springs home in a "non-subdivision" area but ultimately Environmental Health could not permit our intended use on that property and modifications would have been cost-prohibitive.

We intend to move forward with this project on the property that we own, following the protocol established by Cobb County.

Additionally, I would like to correct an error I made. We are affiliated with the Islamic Circle of North America's Relief Division, not Outreach Division, as I had previously stated. ICNA Relief is also known as Muslims for Humanity.

Again, thank you for your kindness and may God bless you and your family as well.

As I stated at Tuesday's hearing, my goal is to work with the community. Unity is essential to the success of any endeavor.

My sincere good wishes to all,

Rachel Naddor
Boot Birrell
April 16, 2014
Does the 2-2 vote with Goreham and Cupid objecting meant Ott and Birrell voted YES?
April 16, 2014
Ott and Birrell vote yes on a motion to DENY the permit, which means they were voting against allowing the land use permit. It appeared to me that Goreham meant to vote against the permit with her original vote, but forgot the motion was for denial and therefore she voted no when she really meant yes. They quickly re-voted without further discussion of the case and the motion to deny carried by a vote of 3-1.
April 16, 2014
It means Ott and Birrell voted to deny the Land Use Permit and Goreham and Cupid voted to allow it. The motion was to deny the request. The vote was Ott and Birrell in favor of the denial and Goreham and Cupid opposed to the denial. Not real clear how it was written in the article
Tiny World View
April 16, 2014
It is a same that the MDJ allows comments to appear on this story that insinuates that because someone is Muslim they must be in some way promoting terrorism.

Rachel Naddor
April 16, 2014
Hi there,

Fortunately in this country and culture we have the freedom to speak our minds. The key is to understand why people say what they do. For many, it's a need for attention. And that's exactly the point of Deserving Peace International, to give attention to those who need it. Unfortunately, some little neglected kids turn into big neglected adults, many of whom turn to social media to get the attention they never got as children.

Terrorism is the intentional spreading of fear. Why do people do that? Because they feel powerless over their own lives and because they can get attention (and sometimes make money) by doing it. Again, it's that attention they needed when they were little kids but never got it from their parents or caregivers.

Hence the purpose of Deserving Peace give loving and nurturing attention to those who need it most...while they're still young.

When people are at peace with themselves, they no longer have a need to take away peace from others or do things for attention.

And the best way to peace at peace with yourself is to live a life of purpose.
Islamic Circle
April 16, 2014
Thought the Islamic Circle of North America, who also owns the mosque on Powder Springs Street, received money from Pakistan. Maybe that is the answer.
Rachel Naddor
April 16, 2014
Dear Friend,

I understand that some people are curious and some are upset.

Funds can come from many places. God is ultimately the source.

I truly wish everyone the best.

Most sincerely,

Rachel Naddor
another patriot
April 16, 2014
I have a question : do these people have jobs? In other words, where does the money come from? People should be very concerned about that.
Southern Partiot
April 16, 2014
An Islamic Indoctrination Center is not needed in this neighborhood or anywhere Cobb County.
Rachel Naddor
April 16, 2014
Dear Southern Patriot,

I am sorry to hear that you missed the hearing yesterday at which I clearly addressed your concern about Deserving Peace International and its objectives.

Conversions and indoctrinations are not on my agenda. Preventing future 9/11's and developing good citizens are.

Thank you for your interest.

Best wishes,

Rachel Naddor

Executive Director

Deserving Peace International
April 16, 2014
April 16, 2014
If this issue had been approved by the Commission, the next variance request would probably be to allow speakers to broadcast "calls to prayer!"
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