Permission sought to open drug and alcohol rehab facility in Berryville

Monday, March 19, 2007

BERRYVILLE -- A drug and alcohol rehabilitation facility for non-violent juveniles ages 13 to 17 is planned in Berryville.

Renee Allen, representing the project known as Bishop Center, appeared before the Berryville of Zoning Adjustment Tuesday night to seek either rezoning or a Conditional Use Permit (CUP) for operation of the center from a Madison Avenue residence.

She said plans call for the project to utilize two residential homes initially, the Madison Avenue house and a commercially zoned home on Eureka Avenue, to accommodate boys and girls in separate facilities -- and to move into a larger permanent facility within a year.

At that point, she said, the two homes would become state-funded Transitional Living For Teens facilities, housing youth 16 and older who are in the state's foster care program.

As for the rehab center, Allen said it would be a state-licensed for-profit business, a three- to six-month residential facility, with home-schooling and physiological counseling offered to residents who hail from all parts of Arkansas.

Right now, Allen said, she has a list of 60, mostly from southern Arkansas, who are awaiting beds in such a facility.

"There will be court-ordered and private placement beds in our facility and it will be on a first-come first-serve basis," she explained.

She said the for-profit business would be set up to accept insurance, private pay and Medicade. There would be 20 or more people employed to run the two houses, which would accommodate up to 15 youth each.

She said there is a great need for such a facility, with only one other in the entire state for teens.

In discussing Allen's request for use of the Madison Avenue house, commissioners determined that a CUP would be quicker to obtain than rezoning -- and if her plan plays out to build a permanent facility at a different location, the CUP would allow the property to automatically revert back to residential use.

City Administrative Assistant Jay Lee said a CUP can be issued for a predetermined length of time, likely a year in this case.

Not wanting to rush the process, commissioners decided to call a special meeting for 6:15 p.m., Tuesday, March 27, to determine if they should recommend a CUP to the city council.

Commissioner Richard Kimberlin noted that it was the commission's responsibility to make sure zoning guidelines are met -- not to determine whether the project was worthy or not.

If the commission recommends a CUP, a public hearing will be scheduled to coincide with a city council meeting, at which time the council will decide if the CUP should be approved, based, in part, on public comment.

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