Josh Butcher's goal of establishing a residential addiction-recovery facility in his hometown of Grove City is within sight, but not yet within reach.
Butcher and his partners' application for a permitted use to allow their Ohio Addiction Recovery Center to move into the former Harrison College building at 3880 Jackpot Road was tabled at the May 7 planning commission meeting.
The applicant requested the issue be tabled until the commission's next meeting, June 5, after an attorney representing a nearby apartment development argued the treatment center is not a permitted use for the site and would require a rezoning request.
The commission would make only a recommendation for the permitted use. City Council would make the final decision on the issue.
Butcher, who celebrated 11 years of sobriety May 6, opened the Ohio Addiction Recovery Center five years ago on East Main Street in Columbus. The center has operated the past three years at 1151 S. High St. in Columbus.
The Grove City location would offer additional space for serving more clients and more inpatient and outpatient services, Butcher said.
"It would allow someone to come in for treatment on day one and not have to go from one facility to another," he said. "We'd be able to provide a continuum of care."
The Grove City center would include bedroom space for up to 36 clients, along with offices, classrooms, meeting rooms and therapy rooms.
"Grove City doesn't have a center like this right now," Butcher said. "Like all communities, it's facing an addiction crisis, and I want to provide a treatment for my hometown."
For Grove City residents, "there would be a greater comfort level being able to stay close to home, family and friends," he said.
In raising his objection at the May 7 planning commission meeting, attorney John Slagter said there's no disputing the need for and value of such facilities as the Ohio Addiction Recovery Center.
"It's not an inappropriate use in general, but it is an inappropriate use when you look at the (proposed location)," said Slagter, who was representing the owners of the Gateway Lake Apartments, a 250-unit complex just north of the proposed treatment-center site.
The city's zoning code has a separate M-1 district for medical facilities, which the Ohio Addiction Recovery Center is because it offers inpatient and outpatient care, Slagter said.
The Jackpot Road site is zoned PUD-C (planned-unit-development commercial) and city code lists a number of permitted uses. Medical is not one of them, he said.
The code does include "other uses approved by the planning commission," and in recommending approval of the application, the staff report presented to the planning commission "interprets that gives you the ability to allow any use that you can think of," Slagter said.
The treatment center either needs to be proposed for an area zoned for medical uses or the site in question must be rezoned -- a whole different ballgame from simply allowing it as a use approval, he said.
"This facility would include inpatient treatment of individuals addicted to drugs checking themselves in and having both psychiatric and physical supervised treatment" adjacent to the 250-unit apartment complex, Slagter said.
Danielle Reed, property manager for the apartments, said she is concerned about the potential effect on the people who live at Gateway Lakes if the clients getting treatment at Ohio Addiction Recovery decide to leave and go back to old habits.
Butcher told the commission there "is a common misconception of what we do every single day, that there are needles and vagrants running around and they are destroying the property they come in contact with and breaking into homes and stealing from cars."
Drug addicts in active addiction commit such acts, he said.
"I've seen it. I've been there. I've been a heroin addict," Butcher said.
The people who undergo treatment at his facility do so voluntarily, he said.
There are no psychiatric patients or clients forced to get treatment coming out of the prison system in treatment at the facility, Butcher said.
Planning commission chairwoman Julie Oyster said that speaking just for herself, she would not be able to vote to recommend the use approval because "to me it's a zoning issue" and allowing the treatment center in the PUD-C zoning district would set a precedent.
Councilman Roby Schottke, chairman of council's lands committee, told the commission that with the zoning and other legal issues that had been raised, "to me, it's just not ready for City Council."
He suggested the case be postponed to allow those issues to be addressed. Butcher and his attorney agreed to request the application be tabled.