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Petoskey planners reject drug rehab home

Title: Petoskey planners reject drug rehab home
Date: Friday, 20 May 2005
Publisher: Petoskey News-Review
Author: Jeremy McBain
Main source:

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A packed council chamber erupted in applause Thursday as the Petoskey Planning Commission voted unanimously to deny a special use permit for TIA Corp. of Battle Creek.

The company wanted to house a 63-bed residential Narconon alcohol and drug rehabilitation center in the former Rues Residential nursing center along Arlington Avenue, just east of MacDonald Drive. However, the request met great opposition from area residents who feared it would be too intensive a use for the site and would create health and safety issues.

"We are thrilled, " said Peggy Child-Smith, a Bay View Association resident, about the denial. "This was too many people in too small an area."

Commissioners said they received more than 150 letters from surrounding residents urging the denial of this project.
"I have been on the planning commission for 25 years and I have never seen such an overwhelming rejection," said commissioner Frank Wangeman.

Planning commissioner John Jorgensen made the motion to deny TIA Corp.'s request based a number of reasons.

Jorgensen said at just two acres the site is just too small for the number of people TIA Corp. wants to serve. He noted its former use, a nursing center, served about 30 elderly patients, while the proposed use would serve more than 60 people and include around 30 staff members.

He said by having this intense a use at the site, it would create a negative impact on the surrounding area because of increased traffic and the possibility of increased crime. He added the use is also not compatible with the surrounding area and does not blend with its environment, mostly residential. Furthermore, there was no adequate buffers for the site and it does not promote or enhance the social or economic stability of the surrounding land.

"I strongly feel it is too intense for its size and it is in the wrong location," he said.

Jorgensen said the applicants should look for other areas in the city that may be more in line with the type of facility they were proposing.

Mike Corcoran, the attorney for TIA Corp., said his clients need to think about what their next action will be. He said they have to consider if they will appeal the planning commission's decision or still purchase the property and turn it into something else, such as a low income housing development.

"If this (a treatment facility) is not permissible, then what is?" he said.

Corcoran said there is a public need for these type of facilities.

"This is a classic not-in-my-backyard defense," he said.

Kate Wickstrom, the owner of TIA Corp., said she was not surprised by the denial.

"I think it is just a misunderstanding in the public what addiction is. Addicts are not criminals. These people came to us for help. They want to be there," she said.

TIA Corp. owns a similar Narconon facility in Battle Creek. Narconon is a drug and alcohol treatment that does not use other drugs to help clients kick their addictions.

This type of treatment was created by an inmate in an Arizona prison, who had a history of drug abuse, based on ideas from a book written by Church of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard.

Officials with TIA's Narconon have said it is not affiliated with the Church of Scientology.