ELYRIA — City Council moved forward with the rezoning of the old Elyria Health Department, a move that continues to draw ire from residents who are concerned plans to turn the building into a women’s drug rehab facility will negatively affect the neighborhood.
By moving forward with the rezoning — Council members voted Tuesday to rezone the property at 202 Chestnut St. from Business District (B-D) to Residential Multi-Household High Density (R-MHH) — the conversation now turns to how the property will be used. The next step will be an application and hearing for a conditional use permit, at which time the proposed buyers will have to answer questions from the community and city officials before a formal vote.
Primary Purpose Center, which has a men’s location in Sheffield Township and works with The LCADA Way, wants to purchase the building to open a 50-bed facility for women and their children.
Mayor Holly Brinda said the city is working with The LCADA Way and Primary Purpose because there is a need for recovery services in the city, specifically near the downtown area. She said the location seemed ideal because the former Health Department provided some addiction services, although mainly as a naloxone distribution site through Project DAWN (Deaths Avoided With Naloxone).
But it’s the proposed plan to house women transitioning from drug addiction that has residents worried.
Brenda Warren, a longtime resident of 10th Street, said she may not live in proximity to the property, but as a resident of the 5th Ward, she is concerned about the center’s effect on the entire south side.
“I’m concerned how this is going to impact my ward,” she said. “It will be very easy for these folks to move around my community. I have a very, very dire safety concern.”
Warren asked Council members to think about how they would feel if the facility was in their ward or neighborhood.
“If this was in your neighborhood, how would you feel with this a few blocks from where you live and where your children go to school?” she said.
Women will go to Primary Purpose after going through drug detox and once admitted will start a 120-day recovery program. It is a two-phase program that starts with halfway lockdown living and then transitions to three-quarter way status that allows residents to slowly move back into society.
Most residents will be involved with The LCADA Way in mandatory day-treatment five days a week. Transportation will be provided for them. While at Primary Purpose, they must attend peer-led group sessions. The residents do not have in-and-out privileges and do not work until they transition to Phase 2.
“This is not a revolving-door facility,” Brinida said, adding that with The LCADA Way less than a mile away “the population is already there” in the neighborhood.
Police Chief Duane Whitely has not formally supported or opposed the facility, but said if it comes to Elyria he “expects there to be a lot of officer presence in that area.”
Councilman Marcus Madison, D-5th Ward, said he appreciated Warren coming to the meeting because he wanted to hear more from residents before deciding if he supported the proposed use.
“I agree with the legislation to rezone to move the conversation forward,” he said. “I’m not completely sold on the conditional-use concept at this point.”
Resident Joann Grier said she wanted city officials to keep an open mind.
“They don’t have anywhere to go,” she said of women in transition. “I myself was in transitional housing, and it worked. It gave me comfort to have some place to go.”
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