Ivy Trace/ICR zoning issue tabled until Aug. 14
After more than four hours and 40 minutes of Zoning Board discussion, impassioned pleas, thoughtful reflection and even a snarky comment or two, only two things were really certain late Tuesday night.
One, Greencastle Board of Zoning Appeals member Andrew Ranck -- one of four voting on the issue -- is not in favor of granting the requested special exception for Indiana Center for Recovery (ICR) to put an inpatient detox center with an on-site medical laboratory in the former Ivy Trace assisted living facility (once known as Greencastle Nursing Home) at 815 Tacoma Drive on the city's northeast side.
And two, after a lengthy night the other three BZA members -- Wayne Lewis, Margaret Kenton and John Phillips (an alternate serving for Brian Cox because of a conflict with Cox also serving as a Greencastle School Board member) -- voted to table the request until 6 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 14 at City Hall.
"We will continue on with this marathon at that time and hopefully come to a conclusion," Lewis said following the tabling action on a motion by Phillips.
The meeting drew a crowd of about 50 to City Hall, while letters from another dozen interested citizens were read into the record by City Planner Scott Zimmerman in what was obviously a hotly divided issue. Residents spoke out on both sides of the issue, while letters also reflected a divided opinion.
Two City Council members even spoke out on separate sides of the issue, albeit appearing as private individuals and not public officials.
Tyler Wade noted that Greencastle "can't do anything more to arrest our way out of this (drug) problem," while suggesting the proposal meets all zoning criteria and urging the BZA to approve it.
Meanwhile, Mark Hammer said he doesn't believe it is a "NIMBY issue," meaning "not in my backyard," but is rather a "not near my school yard" concern.
Adding that he believes the detox center should be located in a medical facility area, such as property out by the hospital, and not a residential zone, Hammer urged the BZA not to support the proposal.
Basically the division within the issue can be characterized as the recognized need for a licensed detox center to serve the community and help curb the addiction problem dominating the pro argument, while the negative argument almost universally points to the proposed location and the site's proximity to Tzouanakis Intermediate School (estimated as 700 feet to a quarter-mile, depending on which side of the argument you were on Tuesday night) and the question of safety, particularly that of the school children nearby.
The Indiana Center for Recovery, a Bloomington-based business, is seeking a special exception in the multi-residential district to operate a fully licensed detox facility for a maximum 26 voluntarily admitted patients (to be double-bunked in 13 rooms). ICR Director Jackie Daniels said the facility would likely open 90-120 days after securing zoning approval and full licensing.
She assured the group that no court-ordered detox patients or registered sex offenders would be admitted to the facility. No visitors would be allowed.
The facility would be staffed 24/7 and have security cameras connected to alarms on its doors. An eight-foot privacy fence is proposed around the sides and back of the facility with a gate out front, the proposal noted.
IRC spokesman Andy Triggs said the patients would be "coming off alcohol or opioid addiction" and would be so sick as to be"completely incapacitated," indicating that would essentially negate them being a security risk desirous of leaving the property.
Patients would be "completely isolated in the emergency medical detox facility," he said. "They can't even call home," adding that their cell phones and wallets are taken away when they check into the facility.
BZA member Ranck asked how IRC picked Greencastle. "Was it because of an empty building or a need?"
"Both," Triggs answered, suggesting a need could be found in virtually any community. "But there's deep need right here," he said, "and a turnkey facility ready to go. We can help immediately."
Lewis, serving as BZA chairman in Cox's absence, asked IRC representatives if they had looked at other locations within Greencastle before offering their current proposal.
"We found the perfect facility instantaneously upon looking, and stopped right there," Triggs said. "We came across a profound need and a optimal location, which is why we're here today."
The need is obvious, IRC officials said.
Indiana, Daniels noted, ranks 11th in the country in opioid addiction and overdoses. She added that of the 250 people under care at the Bloomington facility, 25 are from Putnam County.
School and child safety remained the rallying cry for those against the proposal.
Greencastle School Board President Mike White, who was joined in the audience by Supt. Jeff Hubble and Tzouanakis Principal John Strube, said any chance of any negative impact on the school corporation is a risk that cannot be accepted.
He raised the possibility of a detox inpatient, who because of his or her addiction has lost to custody of their child, realizes that the boy or girl is just down the street every day and out on the playground from 11-11:30 a.m. That might motivate him or her to decide, "'I'm going to go see my kid.'"
Supt. Hubble, meanwhile, expressed concern about safety as well. He agreed that the facility is a community need, "but it's not the right place to put it near a school," he stressed.
The suggestion that the issue might need to be tabled and perhaps even shuttled to the Plan Commission and City Council to look at a potential rezoning as hospital property seemed to bring out the frustration in Triggs.
"This is a real life-and-death issue, " he said. "We can kick this can down the road or we can help somebody. Truly lives are at stake, and that's not hyperbole.
"Ninety days ... four months ... we can get zoned all the way out of here and never take care of it," he added. "We're here today to help, and it's an emergency.
"Greencastle has a problem. Greencastle has a facility. We thought Greencastle was a receptive community that would welcome us with open arms."
Ranck who responded that the BZA was charged with making a 20- to 30-year decision on the issue, asked IRC officials, "If Greencastle is important to you, are you open to other properties in Greencastle?"
Triggs said IRC has not had the opportunity to look any further.
"I don't even know if it is plausible," he said.
Ranck's declaration that he has made up his mind to vote against the proposal means that favorable votes from all three remaining BZA members would be necessary for passage.
The fifth spot on the BZA is currently vacant following a recent discovery that Hammer, as a member of City Council, cannot serve on the BZA as well. The Council acts as the appeals body for decisions made by the BZA.