Olivia Rees/Government Editor
Thursday, Mar. 24, the Morgan County meeting room was overflowing with constituents concerned about the potential residential drug and alcohol treatment center, Reprieve Recovery Center, LLC. It was one of the largest public turnouts ever seen for a planning commission meeting, said one commissioner. With only standing room available, the Morgan County Planning Commission started into public comments. Since treatment center plans are located in the middle of a Mountain Green neighborhood, everyone wanted to have a say. Overall, the residents concluded that while the problem did not reside in opposing drug treatment facilities but the placement of this one in the center of a neighborhood.
County Commissioner Chairman Gary Ross surmised recent letters sent to the planning commission that mentioned the facility as risks to neighbors; negative health and welfare of community; potential traffic issues; drop in real estate prices; potential criminal element; disruption of property lines; and issues of trust with communication that preceded the coming of Reprieve Recovery Center among a plethora of other complaints and concerns.
While Lance Evans initially recommended approval, the planning commission wanted to double check county code was in compliance with state code and receive the county attorney’s advice before proceeding with a decision. If approved, that affirmative decision of the planning commission would go as a positive recommendation to the county commissioners who would then have the final say.
The topic was tabled and weeks later, the planning commission met once again to address the tabled topic. County Attorney Garrett Smith shared that he looked at code in more depth and tried to look at all the aspects of the different Morgan County codes that could apply to this document. Smith had a personal connection to this case having grown up in that very neighborhood. Smith reviewed all the emails and feels there are valid points brought up.
Smith brought to attention the statement he had heard saying the whole ordeal was unconstitutional, a statement that Smith went into depth about. Not seeing anything about federal government regulating housing but there is the federal government housing act and Fair Housing Act for Utah that state there are certain things if the applicant checks the box, it has to be approved. However, there can be restrictions and Smith suggested other stipulations and restrictions could be added as conditions like a six foot fence, no smoking, and such. As far as the concerns about improper application for the A-20 zone, for persons with disabilities, extensive research on the topic can be defined by law, shared Smith. As a drug treatment facility, there are five classes of substances and it is prohibited to bring someone with active use. The applicant affirmed that the facility is looking to bring people who are not actively using drugs.
Smith stated it is important for the community to understand what is being brought into the facility and that the risks need to be mitigated. Further, property rights need to be respected. ”We are not a democracy but set up as a constitutional republic,” asserted Smith. “A republic means the majority rules but still respects minority rights.” The county balances this right and makes sure that the rights of the minority does not trump the majority either. Yet to be figured out is how to best mitigate potential detrimental effects, that are real and do exist says Smith, but does not require elimination of detrimental effects.
The planning commissioners voted to approve Reprieve Recovery LLC, the residential drug treatment facility for a positive recommendation to the county commission. The ultimate decision will be made at a future date by the county commission. To keep tuned, one can visit the Morgan County website for when that item appears on the agenda.