Tipton County BZA strikes down proposed drug treatment facility

·4 min read

Jun. 5—TIPTON — The Tipton County Board of Zoning Appeals struck down a proposal for a drug addiction treatment center in the county.

The board Wednesday night unanimously voted down a special exemption permit submitted by Hope for the Hurting to operate a "social rehabilitation center" at 2155 N. 100 East and 2249 N. 100 East in rural northeastern Tipton County.

The five-person board cited public safety concerns and that the proposed treatment facility was not aligned with the county's Comprehensive Plan, which states that rural residential homes should remain as such, as reasons for its denial. Those are two out of seven total requirements needed to receive approval for a special exemption permit.

BZA member Doug Heron said he believes there's clearly a need for a drug treatment facility in the county, but that he couldn't overlook the fact it may cause safety issues in the area.

"The way I'm interpreting it is I can see most of this criteria being met, but I don't see how we can meet criteria B," Heron said, citing the requirement in the county's zoning ordinance that the proposal seeking a special exemption permit "shall not involve any element or cause any condition that may be dangerous, injurious, or noxious to any other property or persons."

"This says they have to meet all criteria, not just six and a half," he said, "In spite of the need, the way I'm interpreting how we're supposed to do this, it does not meet that exactly."

BZA member Robert Powell concurred with Heron.

"If I lived there, I would have, maybe not a great concern because of my life experiences, but I would have a concern," Powell said.

The board's vote came after a three-hour-and-45-minute meeting that saw impassioned arguments from both those for and against the proposed drug rehab facility.

Hope for the Hurting, a Los Angeles-based nonprofit that also operates the sober living facility Wabash Recovery in Kokomo, sought to operate a 90-day drug treatment facility at the aforementioned properties, which were gifted to the nonprofit by Warren and Michelle Stine with the intention it would then be used to house the drug rehab center.

According to Paul Wyman, owner of The Wyman Group and a Howard County commissioner who represented Hope for the Hurting on Wednesday, the center, dubbed The Oasis, would serve a maximum of 20-25 people, would be a "full-service" voluntary treatment addiction facility, primarily funded by private health insurance.

The Oasis would work primarily with area employers, such as Stellantis, to house and treat their employees who are suffering from drug addiction. Full background checks would be done and no violent or sex offenders would be allowed into the facility. The facility would also employ around 25 employees, including licensed medical doctors and nurses, and people to monitor the security cameras that would be placed on the adjoining properties.

"These are not bad people," Wyman said of those who seek drug addiction treatment. "They have made some bad decisions or been put in some really bad situations. ... We have to quit talking about human beings as if they're secondary citizens or the value or dignity of their life is any less of ours. We have to move past that as a community."

The proposal saw many speak in support of the proposal, including Matt Oliver, CEO of Turning Point. Tipton County Commissioner Nancy Cline also wrote a letter to the BZA detailing her support of the proposed facility.

Greg Cohen and Nick Salvato, who run Hope for the Hurting, also spoke at Wednesday's meeting.

"We believe our program is not bringing an outside element to your community," Salvato said. "Rather, we're treating one that's already in existence."

The proposal, though, saw even more people speak against it.

Concerns, especially from adjoining or nearby homeowners, largely stemmed from security and safety issues and the possible negative effect the proposed facility would have on nearby property values.

Dave Colbert, who lives near the properties Hope for the Hurting now own, criticized what he saw as a lack of security and that he believes the proposal fails most of the requirements needed to be granted the special exemption.

"For me to think these girls (his daughters) will be playing in my backyard and these individuals will be less than 2,500 feet from them makes me sick to my stomach," Colbert said.

Tyler Juranovich can be reached at 765-454-8577, by email at tyler.juranovich@kokomotribune.com or on Twitter at @tylerjuranovich.