EL Planning Commission Votes Against Drug Rehab Clinic

EAST LIVERPOOL, Ohio — With three members absent, the city’s Planning Commission unanimously voted during a public hearing Tuesday against recommending a zoning change for West Seventh Street property, which would allow establishment of a drug rehab clinic.

The commission voted 5-0 to recommend City Council not change the zoning at 231 W. Seventh St. from R-3 Residential to B-3 Institutions and Offices, which includes areas reserved for business offices, professional offices, laboratories and scientific research facilities as well as institutions of a religious, charitable or philanthropic nature.

The property is being eyed by New Jersey-based Pinnacle Treatment Centers for a medication assisted treatment facility.

While the existing building was most recently used as a medical office allowed by a previous zoning change, that office ceased operation between a few years ago, and the zoning reverted to the original residential classification.  

City Council will now consider the measure with the final decision in its hands, according to retired Planning Director Bill Cowan, who was present to take minutes for the meeting.

Speaking in favor of the zoning change was Daniel Wolfe, chairman of property owner Twenty-Six 3 Properties Inc., a nonprofit agency founded by the Columbiana-Metropolitan Housing Authority, on whose board Wolfe also sits.

“We don’t have a lot of people beating down the door for our properties,” Wolfe told the commission. 

He said Pinnacle intends to invest upwards of $400,000 into the clinic, which would be one of 127 facilities it operates in several states. 

According to Wolfe, the company plans to have security on site “to make sure there is no lingering on the property.”

Opposition to the zoning change was voiced by former city council member and Denver Street resident Craig Stowers, who said he is opposed to this type of facility in a residential area. 

Stowers provided statistics he researched online that indicated medicated assisted treatment facilities are a $42 billion per year industry. According to his research, Stowers said, property values decrease as much as 18% in neighborhoods where such facilities are placed. He voiced concerns that clients being treated for drug addiction may also have criminal backgrounds or mental health problems. 

“They’re going to have a security guard walking around. Do people want to see that all the time?” Stowers questioned the commission. Stowers reported there are about 20 residential properties within a three-block radius of the proposed clinic and presented a petition with 30 signatures of those opposed.

The Stowers family makes its living from rental properties in the city, and Stowers told the commission his parents sold everything they owned in the 1970s to buy their home downtown, which he estimated is about 500 yards from the proposed clinic and where his mother still resides. 

He said the neighborhood is well kept, with low crime and he has spent about $15,000 to clear up a corner property at Jefferson and Seventh Street. 

During the recent city council meeting, Stowers said, he addressed members, saying there should have to be a special zoning classification for drug rehabilitation clinics. “I’m not saying there’s no need for them, but there’s definitely no need in a residential area. There are plenty of other things that can go into empty buildings,” Stowers told the commission. 

Before the vote, Wolfe advised the commission if it wanted to table the issue, he could ask a Pinnacle official to attend a future meeting to better explain plans for the clinic. 

However, after Cowan apprised the commission its role is only to make a recommendation to council, member Debra Fickes moved to recommend denying the zoning change, with city Service-Safety Director David Dawson offering a second.

Members voting against the zoning change were Fickes, Dawson, Lou Volino, Timothy Brooks and Brad Goodballet. Absent from the meeting were Mayor Greg Bricker, Craig Kidd and Mario Hernandez.

Councilman Brian Kerr was present for the public hearing but did not comment. Council’s next regular meeting is March 7.

Pictured: A former medical office at 231 W. Seventh Street, East Liverpool being eyed as a medication assisted rehab clinic.

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