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Rezoning for drug rehab center discussed

Pike County commissioners heard initial arguments for and against allowing a drug rehabilitation center at the site of the Shri Ram Chandra Mission Center on Highway 109 near Molena. They made no decision at the April 29 meeting. According to county attorney Rob Morton, due to state regulations a public hearing is required at least six months before a decision can be made to allow a new drug rehab facility. There was standing room only as citizens packed the meeting room. Commissioners were presented with packets from both sides, including a petition against and letters in favor of and against allowing the rezoning. The property is a 32-acre tract that has a main building and two smaller buildings with a total of nearly 15,000 square foot of heated floor space. Matt Wood presented reasons why Pike should allow the rehab center during 40 minutes allotted for those in favor. ’This isn’t really a zoning issue, this is an economic development opportunity that has to go through rezoning,’ said Woods. ‘You’re burdened with determining what the greater good for all Pike residents is in this case. The burden has been laid on you to determine whether you want your vote to represent a very small sector of our residents who have vastly over-exaggerated and unfounded fears and concerns or if you are for adding 30 new jobs with around $1 million in salaries to our struggling job market. The economic benefits from adding 30 jobs to our local economy is much greater than what can be seen on the surface.’ Around 70 citizens of varying distances from the property signed a petition to deny the rezoning. Gerald Matthews represented those opposing. ’We’re concerned about the property in question. Do we move forward with this at the expense of folks who have been in Pike for years and live in residential neighborhoods nearby? Are we not worried about the health, safety and welfare of local residents?’ Matthews asked. ‘Do you want to change the zoning to reflect planned industrial zoning in the middle of an A-R district? We have two facilities in Pike that house troubled individuals. Do we really need another?’ ’If you watch the news about the fires out west ‘“ if that mountain caught on fire, there’s a strong possibility it could wipe out everything on it and everything below it,’ Matthews continued. ‘Could the county get fully loaded tankers up to the buildings and where are they going to refill their tanks? Everybody in the area relies on wells. This will tax our water tables in the area.’ The commission voted 4-1 with commissioner Tamra Jarrett opposed to allow Wood to respond to questions. Commissioner Carol Bass asked if there are now any overnight guests at the site, how many units there are, if the septic system would need an upgrade to properly operate and if there is a sprinkler system in the buildings. Wood said the main building has a wet sprinkler system and overnight guests are allowed. He said he is not an expert on septic systems but the facility has eight 1,500 gallon tanks that go into a drain fill of two acres. Bass said there is a 10,000 gallon tank and a 5,000 gallon water tank and asked if they were both hooked up. Someone from the audience said it was not hooked up. Wood said he did not know if it is hooked up but the tank holds 5,000 gallons of water that could be drawn out if necessary. Bass asked for a more up-to-date document than the 1993 occupancy permit. Wood said once the property is renovated a new occupancy permit must be obtained.

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