by Rick Langenberg:
Despite heavy neighborhood opposition, a residential rehab and treatment center for professional women who are suffering from prescription drug addiction has received the green light.
The four-bedroom facility, proposed off Trull Road near the Swiss Chalet and the Elk Grove town home area in Woodland Park, was approved last week by the city council, following a closed-door executive session. But in a slight compromise, the center, to be operated by Dr. Judith Miller, a certified expert in this field and executive director of Courage to Change, will face more restrictions
The council’s 6-1 verdict represented an about-face maneuver by the elected leaders, who appeared ready to squash the center’s bid for a conditional use permit several weeks ago. However, City Attorney Erin Smith raised a huge red flag, indicating that these types of projects are protected under the American Disability Act and can’t be prohibited by land use rules.
During last week’s meeting, Smith again reiterated her position that elected leaders could not legally deny a conditional use permit for the project. She stated that the council could add additional conditions. The council did promptly impose more restrictions on the applicant, such as denying Miller the use of any signage and baring outpatient care and group meetings. The facility will be equipped to handle a maximum of eight patients at one time. Most women will stay at the in-house facility for about 30 days.
Councilwoman Carrol Harvey, who cast the dissenting tally, stressed the importance of adopting more conditions “to somehow protect the property owners.” The approval verdict was met with silent disappointment by local residents in the neighborhood, who mounted a petition effort against the project. They argued that the treatment center would adversely affect their property values and maintained that the center was proposed in the back yard of a small residential neighborhood. The residents, though, were not permitted to make any final comments, since the hearing on the proposed application had already been completed.
According to Marc Murphy, the co-developer of the adjacent Elk Grove town home project, more than 75 percent of the neighbors in the area oppose the project. “Is it really the proper use for this area?” questioned Murphy, during the previous hearing. He hinted that it could hinder future development plans for the Elk Grove project.
But from a technical standpoint, the project faced no barriers and was supported by the Woodland Park planning staff. In addition, the Woodland Park Planning Commission unanimously approved the application.
And although most residents opposed the location of the facility, they lauded the mission of Miller’s organization in curbing prescription drug abuse, a serious problem in Colorado