Old School Jones Drug Recovery Center Blocked | Local News


The Coffee County Planning Commission issued a negative recommendation at a meeting last Tuesday for a zoning change requested by a religious organization that wants to move its drug recovery center to the old Jones School building on Riley Creek Road.

The request was to revise the zoning by-laws with a modification of the authorized use in Districts A-1, C-1, C-2, R-2 and RS-1. This use would allow “nonprofit churches and / or religious ministries funded only by private donations, which provide education, vocational training and addiction recovery support to its members who are temporarily housed in a facility. Should be allowed, reads the amendment submitted by Be the Buisson.

The radical nature of the request was of concern to the commission. Commissioner Dennis Hunt said the county-wide permitted use was too broad. A change should be made for more restricted conditional use.

“I don’t like the idea that this is a county-wide permitted use. That’s the way it’s presented to us right now, ”he said.

A first motion to postpone the matter was defeated in a 3-2 split vote with two members absent, including Chairman Steven Cunningham.

Hunt then proposed that the committee forward the matter to the full committee for a public hearing and a vote before the entire legislature.

“We will need to review our zoning resolution to put in place specific conditions for this land use. It’s just the way you should do it, ”he said.

The committee rejected the request to recommend a 5-0 allowed change in use not to approve, sending the matter to full committee if the group so desired.

“My objection is that this is permitted use and could go anywhere,” Hunt said. “All they have to do is ask for it and it could go anywhere. I think this should be conditional use, and I’m going to make the same argument thoroughly [commission meeting]. The ball is in their backyard. “

Hunt went further, saying that while the lengthy discussion of the pros and cons of installation is valuable, the conversation needs to be a factual debate.

“We are trained by an expert on zoning issues. We cannot use property values ​​in our decision making process because they are not quantifiable. No one can prove that the value of your property will go down, so we are not allowed to use this. said Hunt. “We need to base our decisions on facts… right here. Nobody speaks for or against [the zoning change] presented all the facts that in my mind could reveal.

County zoning regulations have two distinctions between institutional and group care facilities, but none of the definitions apply to the Be the Bush structure.

Neighbors object to proposed use

Ahead of the vote, the committee heard passionate arguments from county leaders both for and against Be the Bush’s intention to move its drug treatment housing from three houses in Manchester to the 25,000-foot facility. squares that Coffee County schools sold as surplus after closing. from Jones Elementary School in 2002. The property was purchased in 2017 and converted into residential accommodation and rezoned for this use.

Be the Bush was represented by retired Judge Craig Johnson, who said that as a religious organization, the Constitution grants the group the right not to be restricted by the religious organization exemption, but it has declared that Be the Bush wants to proceed correctly with the blessing of the county.

“This is an establishment that is not intended for treatment; he’s there for training, education and discipleship, ”Johnson said, admitting that many citizens have had criminal justice issues in their past and most have had substance abuse issues.

Founder Caleb McCall said there are currently 13 men in the program who receive constant supervision in a strictly structured life. The program lasts 12 months, and participants provide a public service and work daily at the nonprofit group’s associated companies, Jehovah Java and Bush Boys Lawn Care. Participants cannot own a vehicle or cell phone. Visitors are restricted and campuses are smoke-free.

Coffee County District Attorney Craig Northcott objected, calling the campus move to Riley Creek Road a risk to public safety.

He approached the commission with two interests, as a district attorney and as a county landowner, husband and father. Northcott’s Hunters Point House is located near the 8 acres where Jones is located.

“I’m surprised by what I’m hearing today,” said Northcott, explaining that in a meeting with the founder of Be the Bush, the group wanted to serve the community as a drug addiction center.

“Not a discipleship center,” Northcott said. “A drug and alcohol center. [McCall] has come to court several times on behalf of those from Be the Bush and [a sister program for women], Miriam’s House to advocate for those who participate in its drug and alcohol rehabilitation program.

Northcott further said he rejected Be the Bush’s request that he be treated as rehabilitative treatment as part of their probation.

“Then they come here today, and that’s not what it is,” Northcott said. “Handy. It looks like we’ve now changed what Be the Bush is to a zoning change. That worries me. [their] credibility.”

Northcott added that he opposed Be the Bush’s claim to be an “appropriate organization for court-ordered rehabilitation services.” [because] they do not have a single person on their staff, not one, who is trained in drug and alcohol rehabilitation services.

“They don’t have a screening process to keep drug addicted offenders away from child molesters of other offenders,” he said. “They don’t have the screening process to keep the Aryan nation away from gangster followers.

“It’s a risk to public safety. “

[Editor’s Note: Johnson later said that child molesters were not accepted by the group.]

He said homes near the proposed facility would present a “target-rich environment for the temptation of those who succumb to other problems.”

Northcott added that his religious beliefs are well known and that he is a supporter of drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs, but felt that zoning restricts these facilities to more isolated areas.

Retired Tullahoma Fire Chief Richard Shasteen, who lives next to Jones on Hickory Ridge Lane, warned the building’s capacity could accommodate up to 1,600 people.

“When you start housing people in a large building that isn’t sprinklered and doesn’t have a fully integrated fire alarm, that can become a problem,” he said. “When I built my house, it was a school. We knew about the act when the Jones family gave it to the school system, that if it hadn’t become a school, it was supposed to go back to the Jones family.

“It concerns me that we are going to have people living in this residence… who have a criminal history, who are on probation, who are criminals, who are alcohol and drug users who are in recovery.

“This rezoning or zoning change could allow something else to enter anywhere in the county and have a salvage center next to your single family residence.

“If it was a church… with a nursery school during the day… we would be tickled to death, but 30 men living in this facility without a security fence, we have some concerns as a neighbor.

Be the Bush said he was in favor of fencing in response to Shasteen’s concerns.

Support for Be the Bush

Local business owner Sharon Holmes pleaded with the public and the commission to support the program.

“It’s such a blessing to have something like this,” she said. “I worked with these men. They rented our building downtown. They are changed men when they leave this place. When they come in, there is a direction for them.

“There are people who die with these drugs. Don’t push them away. They need us. They don’t need to go somewhere else where no one knows them. I thank the Lord that they are there.

According to Be the Bush information shared at the meeting, the organization provides a “safe and supportive atmosphere for recovery from drug addiction” while receiving Christian residency and education on a “disciplined, alcohol-free, drug-free and drug-free campus. tobacco”.

“Students should be clean, sober and have undergone detoxification if necessary,” the Be the Bush information states.

The information also states that “there is no approved treatment or therapy provided by our organization.”

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