Town gives thumbs-down to addictions facility

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Sue Hickey
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Proponents now pondering Plan B

Proponents hoping to get this building and land in Northern Arm rezoned by council for use as an addictions centre were turned down in a council vote Dec. 18. However, they are now hoping to run it as a resort for people in recovery.

Northern Arm - An addictions treatment centre proposed for Northern Arm may open despite opposition from residents, but in a different form - as a resort for people in recovery.

On Dec. 18, the town council voted 6-1 against changing zoning regulations to allow the property to be used as a treatment centre.

The proponents of Serenity On the Rock had submitted a development application to the town of Northern Arm, near Botwood, stating they wanted to open a private addictions centre. They had acquired a building near the town's Pendragon walking trail.

"In order to accommodate the request, Northern Arm's town council would have to change zoning regulations," said Mayor Gail Hancock.

"There was a vote taken in council to decide whether or not to change the use of the land. ... People were strongly opposed in making any change to the land."

Councillors heard presentations from individuals in town, as well as from Sherri Skeans, who is partnering with the owner/operator of a similar facility in Alberta.

The bottom line was that people just felt the location was wrong, Hancock said.

"I believe the residential aspect was certainly an issue, and there are residential properties right next door," she said.

"I think people, in general, tend to be a little hesitant about changes of any sort - of the unknown - because there is no private facility anywhere else in the province that we could compare it to."

Skeans said she didn't expect the town to vote based on the fear of a few people. Instead, she thought council should have looked at it from the perspective of the town plan, and how well the centre could fit into the community.

"Unfortunately, they went on the fear side, discriminating against individuals with mental-health (issues) and addictions," she said.

"It wasn't really based on fact. It was based on fear, and fear of the unknown," Skeans said.

She said some residents described addicts as criminals who should be in jail, and compared them to rapists and murderers.

"They even went so far to say if the centre were to open, then (the recent mass killing in Connecticut) could happen in Northern Arm," she said.

"A real lack of awareness was present and the town went based on that fear, despite accounts from people asking for a plebiscite to hear from others, not just a few outspoken ones."

Skeans and her Serenity partners are hoping to open the addictions centre using a different strategy.

"The building is zoned for commercial tourism, so we can open it as a resort and cater to individuals in recovery," Skeans said. "I'm sure the same people will be upset about that, but once they know who these individuals are, then they will understand a bit better and we'll create some more community awareness."

— The Advertiser

Geographic location: Northern Arm, Botwood, Alberta Connecticut

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  • peaceworks
    February 28, 2013 - 02:13

    Hafta add just one more thing. Am I wrong in thinking that it would be incumbent upon the proponents of the new facility and zone change to use any and every opportunity to have community residents "know who these individuals are, then they will understand a bit better and" then they can "create some more community awareness"? I mean, before they can expect compliance or even any real consideration of their request. Rather than plan it after the decision is made? It may not have gone like that in this case; appearances can be deceiving.

  • peaceworks
    February 28, 2013 - 01:58

    You know, it strikes me that if I go about belittling or failing to appreciate the value of the good residents of Northern Arm, simply because they exercised their democratic right, gathering enough support for their views to enable them to have their own way, then, am I not doing something somewhat akin to what I'm blaming them for?

  • Disgusted
    January 02, 2013 - 12:32

    You wanna know why crime rates are contunially rising and why individuals with mental health and addictions issues have been outcasted and "branded" as no good criminals?? Its because of the lack of facilities such as these designed to help those in need!! Shame on the residents and Council of Northern Arm. Think about if you had a child or family member in need of a facility such as this. Would you want them to be secluded out in the middle of nowhere, like an outcast?? What are we - stuck back 50 years ago?? This facility would be welcome in my back yard - we need more of them!!

  • Fred from Brigus
    December 31, 2012 - 07:33

    Kudos to the town of Northern Arm. You don't need this facility in a small town. It's all about $$$$$ for Skeans and her NOT SO SERENITY partners. They could care less about the town. Now they are going to shove it down their throats anyway in the guise of tourism. Not a good move. Once you attack the residents of a small community you are asking for trouble. These residents do not have to have their way of life destroyed to satisfy the the financial aspirations of strangers.

  • Duffy
    December 29, 2012 - 17:38

    It is better to have a rich drug addict next door than a poor one. The poor ones have the Newfoundland Government as their drug dealer with Methadone deals and then can steal whatever else they need. The rich guys can buy their own dope and thus do not have to steal and rob.

  • Notinmybackyard
    December 29, 2012 - 12:41

    I can not but wonder the Developer of this Property has an ultimatum to make money at any cost. It's nothing about the addicts and their recovery, but rather the possibilities of injury to someone in Northern Arm or the vicinity. With these people on times, they can become very unpredictible and could lash out at anyone, if they get upset. Let's face it, if it weren't for the money here, I believe the partners wouldn't want this project in their backyard either. It's got nothing to do about christians, and this is bad taste for the individual which said this. Christians, I believe would help any of these people, but not to put themselves in harms way. Having taught Bible Studies in a less-criminal environment in Alberta, where the criminals could walk way, none-the-less these people were about 15 miles away from the City, and it was difficult, or not as difficult, to be able to assualt someone in a residential area. I believe if this development were about 15 miles or so out of town, then the people would be more inclined to accept this, like say, on the TCH. But in a small town with not much police services and particularly in a residential area, then I agree with the citizens to do all to stop this. Furthermore, even in recovery, it's about the same, you are never trustworthy even in this state, unless completely healed. There is a lot of anger and unpredictibilty that goes along with the recovery. I suggest, developers, you go someplace other than this town.

  • Ian Lambert
    December 29, 2012 - 09:37

    As a Newfoundlander, I can't help but be ashamed of the ignorance of many Newfoundlanders towards mental health and addictions. I realize that the resident who opposed this facility probably have little education and have rarely traveled but they probably can read and have the Internet. Shame, shame, shame. I can't help to wonder if the opponents are the same people who go to church every week and call themselves Christians.

    • Rick Jungk
      December 31, 2012 - 04:51

      I could not agree more! Also, Why is there no treatment facilities on the Avalon where most of the population resides?? Only in NFLD!!!

  • Ken Sherren
    December 29, 2012 - 08:57

    The citizens of Northern Arm are very misguided. Perhaps the fear is that they will see themselves in the people seeking treatment.