The Franklin County Fiscal Court recently deliberated on a potential residential treatment center for drug users seeking recovery under the direction of practicing doctors from Georgetown.
A first reading of an ordinance took place Friday morning to amend the Franklin County Code of Ordinances as follows: Sections 155.010 (Definitions), 155.085 (Table of Permitted Uses) and create Section 155.124 Residential Recovery Facility to Section 155 (Conditional Uses) to add the Land Use of Residential Recovery Facility as a Conditional Use in the Agricultural (AG), Rural Residential (RR), Rural Residential A (RA), Rural Residential B (RB), Rural Residential C (RC), Special Residential (RS), Two Dwelling (RD), Rural Low Density Multi-Family (RL), Rural High Density Multi-Family (RH), Professional Office (PO), Rural Limited Commercial (CL), Industrial Commercial (IC) and General Industrial (IG) zoning districts.
Judge-Executive Huston Wells said the number of amendments listed under item nine of the court’s regular meeting agenda was “highly unusual” and asked Planning and Zoning Director Robert Hewitt to explain the matter to the rest of the court.
“This text amendment originated from the applicants. Their intent is to open a recovery center for individuals, I believe it’s related to drug addiction, in a house-like setting,” Hewitt said. “The reason this text amendment was presented is because I was unable to identify this activity in the county’s current land use table.”
Hewitt explained the applicant’s plans would exclude the high-density multi-family districts, the general commercial and highway commercial districts.
“Otherwise, it’s being proposed as a conditional use in all other zones from agricultural all the way to industrial general. It’s specific to a residential recovery center as opposed to a medical-type facility. The planning commission held a public hearing on Aug. 12, and they adopted findings of fact and made a recommendation of approval to the fiscal court by a vote of six to one,” Hewitt said.
Sixth District Magistrate Lambert Moore said the proposal of such a facility raises concerns for him because of a similar center that is within his district.
“It creates a problem because it’s too far for emergency services to get to them if something happens and too many neighbors to contend with if something goes awry,” he said. “There’s too many zones here. I think it needs to be narrowed down to zone change, where it comes before us instead of the planning commission just putting the facility out into the general public and people not really having any say so about it.”
Hewitt was asked if the public would have an opportunity to voice their opinion on the facility, regardless of whether they were in support or opposition.
“As a conditional use, it requires consideration by the board of zoning adjustments. Those public meetings are noticed in the newspaper two weeks prior to the public meeting and adjacent property owners are notified by my office from first class mail identifying them as an adjacent owner and a description of the request,” he said.
Wells said Moore expressed legitimate concerns and asked the applicants, Dr. Mark and Melissa Deaton, to give an overview of their plans for a facility.
“The importance behind a residential facility in that type of area is to try to get the patients away from the inner city area and hopefully away from the increased trafficking and availability of drugs and crime,” they said. “We wanted an area where we could work with the patients in a quieter setting, a more wooded area if that was available, so that we could do things to increase life skills, not just the regular clinical stuff.”
The Deatons said learning life skills by hands-on activities, such as gardening and tending to small animals, could add to the patient’s recovery chances.
They added staff would also be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to help monitor patients, as well as the use of cameras and alarms. During the day, patients undergo clinical checks, and at night, bed checks every 15 minutes, according to the doctors.
Third District Magistrate Michael Mueller asked the Deatons why they wanted to open their facility in Franklin County as opposed to Georgetown, where they live.
Simply put, the doctors told the court a similar facility already exists in Scott County, so they decided on Franklin County, which has not had a facility of this nature since Beta shut down years prior. Beta was a treatment center operating under the umbrella of Bluegrass.org, but did not have enough funding to remain open, according to the Deatons.
“Without residential treatment, the likelihood of that being a possibility and the number of opiate users that actually get clean and stay clean decreases dramatically. The longer you can have them in a residential treatment facility, the better your chances are,” the Deatons said. “Basically, the quicker the fog lifts because they’re able to interact with facility staff and counselors… Being involved with someone on a daily basis recovering from addiction, you are able to watch their struggles and make a determination as to what they need.”
Hewitt told the court he agreed with County Attorney Rick Sparks on how needed the facility is in Franklin County.
“Jails are becoming the treatment centers, and there’s an issue with that,” he said. “When Counselor Sparks identified the ‘nimby’ issue, not-in-my-backyard, that’s exactly how this would be perceived if it goes before the board for zoning adjustments under conditional use permits. Perhaps a larger lot requirement along with some stipulations could be beneficial to those in proximity to facilities such as this.”
Wells said there is no question the court believes what the Deatons are doing would be helpful to Franklin County citizens.
“I hope you can understand what we’re trying to do is find a compromise because the last thing you want is a group of residents pounding on your door and protesting in front of your facility,” Wells said to the doctors. “We don’t need that, so I like where the court is going. Robert (Hewitt), I like what you just said. I think that is a great compromise to try to work this out to get a facility in Franklin County that could help our needy people with this addiction.”
The Deatons asked the court to wait on having a voting session until Dec. 17 after more discussion on various zones and ideas could take place.
“We are all looking to try to get something done in a way we can find a compromise everyone will be satisfied with,” Wells said.
A location for the recovery treatment facility proposed by the Deatons has yet to be identified in the zoning discussions.