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Concerned mother appeals permit for Morro Bay detox facility. Here's what's next

Tribune - 3/5/2021

Mar. 5—A Morro Bay resident is appealing a city permit allowing a proposed addiction rehabilitation facility to move forward with a state licensing process.

Ashley Smith, a concerned parent who lives near the property that currently operates as a Rodeway Inn, said she submitted her appeal to Morro Bay officials earlier this week.

The appeal cites concerns about public safety and potential impacts on the city's police and fire services.

The owners of the 27-room motel at 2460 Main St. applied for a minor-use permit in December to convert the inn to a detox center. The permit was issued on Feb. 24, triggering a 10-day period for an appeal.

The rehab center — to be called Morro Bay Recovery Inc. under the corporation Twins Bay Inc. — plans to help people overcome drug and alcohol addiction.

The appeal will be heard publicly by the Planning Commission, though no specific date has been set at this point, city officials said. If the appeal is denied, Smith could take the issue to the City Council.

"(The permit) does not adequately address measures to ensure the safety of the surrounding neighborhood," Smith said. "Will there will be fencing around the entire facility? Will there be guards on patrol during the evening hours?"

Safety issues in question

The site of the proposed facility is located across Highway 1 from Cloisters Community Park and Morro Bay High School, near the Maya restaurant.

Smith cited potential impacts on police, fire, the Chamber of Commerce and tourism services.

A minor-use permit is administered by city staff, which reviews the application for compliance with local and state land-use laws. The actual licensing of the supportive living facility would still need to be approved by the state's Department of Health and Human Services, according to city officials.

Smith said the allowance also doesn't provide information about programming or curriculum or employees such as doctors or counselors.

She's seeking a stay on the permit to allow for a public hearing where the fire chief, police chief, Chamber or Commerce and the project's operator, Brian Der Vartanian, "can address these issues."

"The (proposal) is slated to accommodate 27 to 40 people at a time," Smith told The Tribune. "That many people detoxing at the same time is alarming."

Morro Bay city response

Morro Bay city officials told The Tribune that the state has effectively removed discretionary power from the city over supportive living facilities.

"The state says we have to treat these types of uses like any other residential use," said Community Development Director Scot Graham. "The items noted in (the appeal) would mean we are treating the facility differently from other residential projects, which would likely place us in violation of state law."

Graham reiterated: "These facilities are regulated and licensed by the state. The project is conditioned to require they provide a copy of their state-issued license prior to occupancy."

In a question-and-answer form posted by the city, Der Vartanian wrote that onsite counseling will take place at the facility and some of the rooms will be used for "meetings and services."

"The residents will have a schedule to follow that is essential for their recovery," he wrote.

"We would like to install a privacy fence along the entry Main Street side," Der Vartarian added. "Residents cannot leave the premises unless authorized by staff and doctor."


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