Substance abuse treatment facility given the OK for commercial retail zoning

Substance abuse treatment facility given the OK for commercial retail zoning


Recovery Unplugged is a “substance, drug and alcohol addiction recovery center” that uses music to help clients find their way to sobriety.

There are currently three Recovery Unplugged locations: in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, Austin, Texas and Alexandria, Virginia.

Recovery Unplugged’s owners are hoping there will soon be one more: in Brentwood.

On Monday night, Brentwood’s Planning Commission reviewed whether or not facilities like Recovery Unplugged should be allowed in the city’s C-2 (Commercial Retail) zoning districts.

They were reviewing this question because of the site that Recovery Unplugged representatives had identified as the potential home of their next treatment center.

The property they found is located at 255 Wilson Pike Circle, in the former offices of Bell & Associates Construction. That land is zoned C-2.

While that zoning designation does allow for certain institutional uses like hospitals, convalescent homes and assisted living facilities, it says nothing about substance abuse centers.

The relevant bit of city law, though, stipulates that “other retail, service or office” uses can fall under this district if the Planning Commission decides that use “is in keeping with the character and intent of the district.”

Recovery Unplugged representatives went before the Planning Commission on Monday night to see whether or not they would be allowed to set up shop on Wilson Pike Circle if they did decide to buy the property there.

The Planning Commission decided in a 6-4 vote that substance abuse treatment facilities are a permitted use in C-2 districts.

Recovery Unplugged offers detox and residential services, like group therapy and psychiatric care, to its clients. While in treatment, people eat and sleep at the center, which has staff on hand 24 hours a day.

The center in Brentwood would be expected to have between 35 to 45 clients at any one time and a staff of around 50 people.

Jim Murphy, an attorney for Recovery Unplugged, argued that this type of facility was comparable to those allowed under C-2 zoning rules.

“The use is similar to many of the other uses that are permitted in the C-2 district,” he said. “They provide a medically-managed detox and residential treatment facility. It’s staffed by medical professionals. It operates similar to an assisted living or nursing home.”

Murphy said that Recovery Unplugged clients are supervised at all times, even when they go outside for a smoke break. Additionally, he said that the facility will be secure, with a fence surrounding it and video cameras monitoring activity.

Recovery Unplugged President and Chief Financial Officer Andrew Sossin said that his organization has a very low rate of people leaving before their treatment is complete. He also said that the site on Wilson Pike Circle was chosen because of its similarity to Recovery Unplugged’s Austin, Texas site. It would not take an inordinate amount of work to get it up and running.

Even so, some commissioners worried that an addiction center would not be a good fit for the area.

Commissioner John Magyar said that while the center seemed to fit the intent of the C-2 zoning district, it did not necessarily fit the character of the area.

“To me it just seems like kind of an odd fit for that particular area,” he said. “I just don’t think this is the most appropriate place for it.”

Commissioner John Church said he was concerned about the location’s proximity to residential areas along the southern end of Wilson Pike Circle, and the possibility of people just walking off from treatment.

“While walk offs are minimal, they’re not eliminated,” he said, referring to Sossin’s statements. “From a security standpoint and the character of that area there I can’t support this.”

City Attorney Roger Horner said that commissioners were not really deciding whether Recovery Unplugged should go in that particular location on Wilson Pike Circle, as much as they were deciding whether “a recovery center of this nature” is “an appropriate use for the C-2 district?”

“If you decide that yes it is, then a recovery center can go on this site or it can go on another site within the C-2 district,” Horner said. “You’re not really specifically looking at whether this site is the best site, you’re just looking at whether it is an appropriate use for the C-2 district.”

Commissioner Brandon Oliver expressed what ended up being the majority view on the question. He said that if hospitals were allowed in C-2, then it seems recovery centers should be as well.

“You can question whether or not it’s the right spot you would want, but inside C-2 I feel it fits within the regulations,” he said.

At the end of the discussion, six commissioners voted in favor of declaring substance abuse treatment facilities an appropriate use in C-2 zoning, while four voted against it.

Commissioners Chris Clark, Carole Crigger, Janet Donahue, Brandon Oliver, Stevan Pippin and Sandi Wells voted in favor.

Commissioners John Church, John Magyar, Jack Moriarty and Ken Travis voted against.

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