Community rallies to block addiction recovery center project near Saluda – The Tryon Daily Bulletin

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Community comes together to block drug addiction recovery center project near Saluda

Posted 2:25 p.m. Thursday, November 17, 2022

SALUDA – Residents of a Saluda Community Rally to Fight Special Use Permit Approval – SUP-22-07 – Asking Henderson County Zoning Adjustment Board to Open a Center addiction recovery residential off Fork Creek Road. According to Craig Halford, director and founder of First Contact Ministries, Inc., which is applying for the permit, the center would house up to 18 adult men after they complete their medical detox from drugs and/or alcohol.

The property in question at 4353 Fork Creek Road, Saluda, is a 5,485 square foot, four bedroom, five bathroom home, owned by the Linda Neufeld Trust. It is listed for sale for $1.3 million and covers 34.52 acres. Although it is technically located in Henderson County, it is closer to the town of Saluda and the property backs onto the 20,000 acre North Saluda section of the Greenville watershed. A sale to First Contact is pending Special Use Permit approval.

Halford, who twice unsuccessfully searched for a location for the center in Henderson County with the backing of state senator Chuck Edwards, won a $1.5 million fiscal year 22- 23 from the State Capital and Infrastructure Fund for the construction of a new substance abuse treatment facility. It was later modified to allow for the purchase and renovation of a building. The non-profit organization received an additional $500,000 grant from local project pipeline funding in the mental health, developmental disabilities and addictions services subsection of the base budget, capital and expansion. Reporting requirements are attached to both credits.

Senator Chuck Edwards supported First Contact’s efforts to establish a drug treatment and rehabilitation center in Henderson County to meet the growing need for such a facility in the county. According to Edwards’ office, illicit opioid overdose deaths increased by 1,242% between 2011 and 2021 in North Carolina. Henderson County has no residential treatment facilities and only one inpatient facility through Pardee Hospital/UNC Health.

Answering questions on the senator’s behalf during a meeting at his Hendersonville office, his aide Heather Millett said the need for such a facility has been on the senator’s radar since his election in 2016.

“Senator Edwards is honored to have had the opportunity to support First Contact Ministries in their efforts to bring a residential treatment center to Henderson County and fill the overwhelming void in services currently provided. administration of First Contact has a long history of saving lives, helping families and helping people affected by addiction get back on track.

While Saluda residents say they realize such a facility is needed, many are convinced that the Fork Creek property is not the right location. More than 75 Fork Creek area residents gathered at the nearby Orchard Lake Campground on Sunday to organize an objection that will be presented at a SUP hearing on Monday, Nov. 21. Polls signed by the group opposing the location of the center were also presented to Edwards. ‘ Desk. Monday will be the continuation of the Oct. 26 hearing on the matter and is scheduled for 4 p.m. in the Hendersonville County Board of Commissioners meeting room, located at 1 Historic Courthouse Square in Hendersonville.

Opposition to the proposal began in September following a hearing notice posted at the entrance to the gated property. Only residents whose properties adjoin the Neufeld estate have been notified directly by mail.

Cindy Hemenway, whose home on Pace Gap Road is accessible from Fork Creek Road, is located closest to the proposed workshop location. She said she first heard about the hearing from a neighbor who saw the sign go up.

“I received this notification letter just days before the hearing,” Hemenway said.

The sign said the SUP was wanted for assisted living. It angered area residents to learn the true nature of the property’s proposed use. Henderson County zoning administrator Matt Champion explained that addiction labels fall under assisted living in the county’s land use code. He said it would take the approval of county commissioners to create new uses.

With little time to react before the September 28 hearing, Hemenway immediately began organizing a group of concerned citizens, set up a trust to pay attorneys’ fees, and hired Brian Gulden of the Van Winkle law firm. Gulden managed to buy additional time for affected residents to investigate the matter and retain the expert services needed to assess the impact of the proposed use of the property on the community. A second hearing was granted and set for October 26. This meeting lasted more than five hours and continued until November 21.

While a large number of residents opposed to the SUP, as well as supporters of First Contact attended the quasi-judicial hearings, only five were granted speaking rights. Unlike a public hearing, only people whose properties are contiguous to the property for which the SUP is requested can present their case to the planning board. These people had to demonstrate that they would be directly and substantially affected by the council’s decision. The onus is on landowners to prove that their community will be harmed.

Allison Hull, who gained a reputation due to her property in the Morgan Creek community which also adjoins along Pace Gap Road, said her biggest concern was for her safety and that of the community. That concern, she said, outweighs the loss of property values, even though she only recently moved from Charleston in search of a quieter lifestyle in the western mountains. of North Carolina.

Brooks and Kim Wynn, who said they hadn’t even unpacked all the boxes from their recent move to the Fork Creek community, expressed extreme concern over the approval of a nearby rehab facility. They have been given permission to use Saluda’s name to create a SaveSaluda.org website that will be used to raise funds for the legal costs of an appeal if the zoning board approves the SUP.

In addition, Orchard Lake campground owners Kirk and Konnie Hall and their daughter Hannah, all of whom were granted standing at the hearings due to the proximity of their two homes across from the entrance to the property in question, rally the neighbors to join the fight against the permit. At Sunday’s group meeting, residents expressed concern that although First Contact is currently only looking for a special use for one house, they could potentially expand on the additional square footage as Halford, in its early efforts to find a location, had originally hoped to operate both a men’s and women’s recovery center.

Kirk Hall noted that had it not been for the legal action taken by the Concerned Citizens Group to get the permit hearing continued, he believes it would have been a “done deal” by now.

“The lawsuit has given us more time to prepare,” he said, urging anyone concerned about the SUP to attend Monday’s hearing to show their support for those who were able to win the right to present. their testimony.

Brian Stepp, a member of the Saluda Fire Department and EMS, who would be the first responders in the event of an incident at the address, said the terrain in the area is not suitable to accommodate such a facility. He said public safety should be given careful consideration by the zoning board before making its decision to grant the SUP.

Halford said there were no plans to make any major renovations to the house, other than adding a bathroom and rebuilding a workshop on an existing cement slab. The three upstairs bedrooms, he said, would be equipped to accommodate six men in one room and the fourth bedroom would house staff around the clock. Although Halford admitted that he and First Contact had no experience Prior to operating a recovery center, he said the Christian organization, which has been providing referral services for about a decade, would partner with Summit Wellness for professional counseling.

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