For the past few months, Reprieve Recovery LLC, a residential drug treatment facility, has been going through the process of receiving approval to start business in a purchased home located within a residential Mountain Green neighborhood. It has garnered attention from the community, resulting in an impressive turnout opposing the decision. Concerns have varied from negative health and welfare of the community; potential traffic issues; drop in real estate prices; criminal element; and other issues mainly revolving around the specific location and not necessarily the business itself. After two meetings the facility was approved for a positive recommendation to the county commission by the planning commission after an in-depth explanation by County Attorney Garrett Smith during the May 12, planning commission meeting.
At the June county commission meeting, Smith found it appropriate to distinguish between a legislative decision and an administrative decision. Understanding the frustration residents or other concerned individuals may have under the assumption that the planning commission or county commission is not listening, Smith stated that “They are listening, but the law requires them to act a certain way depending on the decision that’s being made.”
A legislative decision is where the county commission can take input from the community and use discretion on how the commissioners want to move forward. “An administrative decision is checking the box of what the code requires or the state code, for example, requires,” says Smith. Smith continued to explain that there is not any discretion in an administrative decision and commissioners cannot vote it down just because they do not want it to happen. That would expose the county to liability.
Smith has been working with the applicants and also the applicant’s attorney discussing conditions. Although there was discussion to amend the code in November, the county code is insufficient and non-compliant with the state code, specifically the Utah Fair Housing Act. A provision within the Fair Housing Act, Utah Code 57-21-2.5, regarding supremacy over local regulations and subsection says that the chapter of code supersedes and preempts any ordinance regulation standard or other legal action by a local government entity a state entity or the governing body of the political subdivision that relates to the prohibition of discrimination in housing. Since the county code conflicts with the current state code, the Utah Code trumps.
The applicants have worked closely with County Planning Director Lance Evans regarding issues discussed at the planning commission meeting. There were multiple conditions put into the recommendation from the planning commission; some of these conditions, as Smith found when talking with the applicant’s attorney, are not stipulated and by law, the county cannot reasonably impose them. Imposition of certain conditions can be viewed only applying to, or discriminating those with disabilities in the treatment center and is prohibited by the Utah code.
For example, such conditions requested by residents as put forth in the March 24 planning commission implying descrimination is requiring a fence. As it is a residential area and none of the other residents are required to have a fence, it would be discriminatory to require Recovery LLC to put up a fence. It would be another story, if the facility wanted to construct a fence on its own accord. The applicants do not agree with the conditions of a fence, a non-smoking facility, and such. Smith recommended some kind of formal structure allowing monitoring and reports.
Other discussion and research presented by Smith relating to the eight individual limit and the recent request from the applicants to increase it to 14 or 16 persons limit; however, based of the research, Smith stated the accommodations for an increased limit is not necessary and the condition will be kept unless the applicants wants to move forward with the process to change that code.
One of the applicants, John Redd, addressed the commission and once again explained the purpose of the facility to help people struggling with addiction. Redd says he recognizes there is a need in this community and feels the facility could be of benefit. There will be 24 hour supervision while the residents are in the facility and Redd is happy to be a community liaison, holding weekly meetings with community residents if desired. It was noted that the intent is for the facility to be a non-smoking facility but that, along with other conditions, Redd felt were not effectively articulated and did not want to hastily agree. With traffic concerns, the residents will not have personal cars and the traffic will not be overwhelming, especially when compared to having kids and teenagers at home, said Redd. Redd said what he found is that “people are dying needlessly and we’re looking to just essentially set up a place where people can heal and that’s our hope.”
Working with Dave Rich and fixing up the home, Redd also mentioned an instance where an unnamed individual entered the home without permission. Whether or not the home turns into a treatment center, Redd and other owners own the property and those property rights should be respected. Also to note, a business license has been applied for but Redd says it is unknown at this time if Reprieve Recovery LLC will actually be getting it.
A motion was made to postpone the conditional use permit pending negotiation of an agreement specific to the conditional use permit application setting forth the conditions set in the staff report.