Stow City Council is considering whether to allow a drug and alcohol detoxification facility to open in the former Cherry Creek Acres on Graham Road, but is giving the matter three readings in order to allow for community input.
If approved, it would be the first detoxification center in the city.
The property, which is next door to Woodland Elementary School, is currently owned by Paul Zuravel and has been vacant for several years.
Astra, a firm that operates in the behavioral health care realm, is looking to launch a new sub-acute detox center in the area to service anyone who needs help.
Matt Dore, Astra operations officer, said Astra is interested in purchasing the property from Zuravel, but would only do so if they receive Council’s approval.
“Short of that, we wouldn’t have much use for the building,” he said.
The facility would have a staff of 10, including doctors and nurses, who would provide 24-hour supervision for about 30 adults detoxing from alcohol and opiates. Clients are typically at the site for 15-21 days, depending on their insurance, and staff work with individuals to help them transition out of the facility.
They would add a fence and foliage or shrubbery to keep it “out of sight, out of mind,” Dore said.
Dore said the clients would not be there by court mandate, and the facility would provide consensual treatment. Clients would stay on property grounds throughout their stay, and are provided transportation to and from the facility.
Astra first presented to Stow’s Planning Commission in early May. The city’s zoning code does not include detoxification centers as a use, and so then-planning director Rob Kurtz suggested that the commission consider the proposal as a conditional use for an assisted living facility.
Kurtz noted that the city’s definition of “assisted living facility” did not exactly meet Astra’s intended use, but that it may be the next closest option.
After nearly an hour discussion, the commission voted to table the matter so that they could potentially look into adding language to the code that better fit Astra’s use.
According to current planning director Nathan Leppo, Kurtz hired a third-party consulting firm to review the zoning code. During that period, Kurtz left the city for another job, and there was a week-long gap between Kurtz’ last day and Leppo’s first day.
The planning department does not have a deputy, and so “When Stow lost Rob, that institutional knowledge of 25 years went away, so I’m at stage zero trying to figure out Stow’s unique processes and zoning code,” Leppo said.
As a result of the transition, the planning commission did not meet again within 60 days, which according to city code constitutes a denial by the commission. Any denial requires a five-person supermajority of Council to override.
Once Leppo was able to catch up on and understand the matter, he presented Astra’s proposal to council on July 22. However, Council is now considering it as a group home for people with disabilities, as opposed to an assisted living facility.
Fire Chief Mark Stone said he has not reviewed plans for the facility, but is concerned about its location and its affect on EMS services.
“That is in the Station 3 district, which already has several nursing homes, and another is about to open. You have Summa, and we have a head injury facility,” he said. “19% of our calls are nursing home related and calls are going up […] My concern is do we have the manpower to provide services to this facility as well as others in the district, and are we shortchanging our residents elsewhere when all EMS is on the other side of town?”
Dore said they are waiting to see if Council will approve their use, and then would work with the fire and building departments to make necessary changes. There is currently no proposed changes to the building itself.
“I think Stow needs this and the county itself needs this,” Dore said.
Tugg Masa, a local drug addiction activist and the first employee of the new Akron House Recovery, said there were 119 overdoses in Summit County so far this year, according to the coroner’s office, and there were another 25 on backlog.
“Some of these people have Stow addresses, even if they didn’t die in Stow,” Masa said. “These could be your children, your grandchildren […] It’s not going to hurt anyone to have a detox center. They’re not climbing over fences or breaking into houses. They need help, and we should be helping them.”
Councilman Steve Hailer said that he does not “have a problem” with the facility, but understood the concerns from the fire department. He proposed having three readings so that the public and neighbors could have their questions answered.
Ultimately Council agreed with Hailer.
Council will have a second reading on Aug. 12. The Aug. 26 council was previously canceled, and so the third reading is scheduled for Sept. 9
Reporter Krista S. Kano can be reached at 330-541-9416, email@example.com or on Twitter @KristaKanoABJ.