City zoning board plans special meeting to discuss detox center

WEIRTON – Weirton zoning officials have scheduled an informational meeting to further discuss a new detox center proposed for the city.

A 12-bed facility at 243 American Way, near Kwik King and Weirton Medical Center, aims to operate as a “crisis stabilization unit/detox center for substance abuse,” and officials must determine how to categorize the facility before it can move forward.

The informational meeting will be held 6:30 p.m. Sept. 9 in Council Chambers at the Municipal Building, and it will be open to the public. It is not clear whether public comments will be allowed.

The issue was already discussed with the Zoning Board of Appeals Tuesday as well as at the Aug. 19 meeting.

David Hildreth, deputy director of the West Virginia Real Estate Division, requested a use determination and/or conditional use permit approval for the detox center, which has already been constructed. That request remains tabled for the time being.

Rod Rosnick, chief code official, said the original application stated the facility would be classified a “group home,” but the state’s definitions and classifications do not match up to the city’s Unified Development Ordinance definitions.

“The city of Weirton was advised in March 2014 that the property wasn’t going to be used as a ‘group home’ and was going to be a ‘drug rehab’ operated by Healthways. I don’t believe their use qualifies as a group home under the city of Weirton’s definition,” Rosnick explained at the Aug. 19 meeting.

Options for classification of the facility include “halfway house,” “group home,” or “medical clinic.” If the board decides that the facility does not fall under any of those definitions, it will not be permitted. There are aspects of each definition that describe the facility’s intended use, but none of the terms encompass the full services that would be provided there, according to Rosnick.

The Unified Development Ordinance defines “medical clinic” as “an establishment providing medical, psychiatric or surgical services exclusively on an outpatient basis, including emergency treatment and diagnostic services.”

A “group home for mentally or physically disabled” is defined as “any home in which eight or fewer mentally or physically handicapped persons reside, and may include two additional persons acting as house-parents or guardians who need not be related to each other or to any of the mentally or physically disabled persons residing in the home.”

The UDO describes “halfway house” as a “place for transitional group living arrangements for persons discharged from hospitals, correctional facilities, or in lieu of hospitalization, characterized by the presence of such live-in staff, emphasizing the development of skills necessary for more independent living. The facility shall be licensed and operated in accordance with all applicable laws.” The “halfway house” definition would require the facility to have a conditional use permit issued by the board.

Rosnick read a letter from Hildreth, who apologized for being unable to attend the meeting Tuesday.

“The ‘group home’ is a building in which several different types of programs can be offered. Alcohol and drug addiction are just some of those programs… We are very concerned about the outcome of the meeting today,” Hildreth wrote.

James Keller of Selitti Lane addressed the board regarding the detox center.

“The past 12 years of my life have been dedicated to fighting heroin, prescription pills, medications and so forth. I’ve watched countless families suffer and lose everything they had because they had a child or a loved one who died because of this drug. I started Dare to Prevent. I had a hand in starting Never Alone. We’re doing everything in our power, but it’s just not working. The small little light of hope that we’ve had, that we’ve been staring at for the past seven years, is the possibility of getting something like this opened up in this town. I may be the only one standing here today, but I promise you there are thousands of people standing with me. I’m pleading with you guys. If this thing could open up it would give our community hope. That’s what we need to do. I spoke to Weir High students about drugs. I had kids surrounding me, and I asked how many people know someone on drugs. Every single child raised their hand. Every one. Our kids are our future, and there’s nowhere for them to go. There’s no hope for them. If this does not open up, we are closing a window of hope for our community and our children and our future. I’m standing here begging you to please consider that,” Keller said.

Board member Mike Simon and Chairman Vince Azzarello participated in the meeting via speaker phone, and both said that they still needed more information in order to reach a decision. Bob Kolanko, board member, agreed, and Robert Campbell, board member, disagreed.

“I believe that it’s laid out fairly well. Certainly there are elements in all of those three applications that would apply here. I don’t think that’s going to change,” Campbell said.

They voted to table the matter, at least until after the special informational session takes place.

In other business, J.T. Keeder of Hillcrest Road requested a variance to permit a garage in his front yard. The UDO requires accessory structures to be behind the rear wall of the principal structure. Keeder explained that there’s nowhere else on the property to place it, and since his lot is at the end of a dead-end street, the structure would not cause any traffic issues.

The variance was granted by a 3 to 1 vote, with Azzarello opposing it.

William Zoellers of North 20th Street requested a 6 foot variance to permit a 26 foot wide driveway and an 8 foot variance to permit a driveway within 17 feet of an intersection. The UDO permits a maximum 20 foot width in driveways on residential lots less than 60 feet in width, and driveways are required to be a minimum of 25 feet from a street intersection.

“His situation is unique, in that he has city streets on three sides of his lot,” Rosnick said.

The board voted unanimously to grant those variances.

Albert Magnone of Gibson Avenue requested a variance for his property on Miller Avenue to permit a driveway with a zero side yard setback in a single-family residential property. The UDO requires a minimum setback of 5 feet from a side property line. The board voted unanimously to approve the variance.