Stanly Board of Adjustments approves special use permit for new facility

The Stanly County Board of Adjustments has ruled on a proposal for a Charlotte-based drug treatment facility at a former assisted care facility on Vickers Store Road.

The matter came before a nearly full room of citizens Tuesday night at the Gene McIntyre Meeting Room at Stanly Commons, many of whom stood at one point to show their opposition to the new facility at the proposed location.

By a vote of 5-2, a special use permit was approved for the former site of The Homeplace Rest and Retirement. The new permit would be for an inpatient residential drug care facility operated by The Blanchard Institute of Charlotte.

Vice Chairman Richard Cosgrove and board member Judy Nelms voted against the motion to approve the permit.

According to Stanly County Planning Director Bob Remsburg, the application has to meet four standards to be approved: whether the request would endanger public health or safety, injure the value of adjoining properties, work in harmony within a municipality, and meet the conditions and specifications of the county.

The first standard passed 7-0, the third 5-2 (with members Michael Fleming and Brenda Farmer against), and the fourth 7-0.

The second standard was handled differently by the board. Cosgrove moved to find the statement of injuring the value of adjoining properties false, seconded by Nelms. Three voted the standard was false (Farmer, Cosgrove and Nelms), while Chairperson Cindy Fish and board members Richard Fleming, Billy Franklin Lee and Rick Johnson voted against the motion, which meant the board ruled 4-3 the standard was true.

Cosgrove, regarding the second standard, said he knew the board “heard from the appraiser. I know we heard from individuals who thought it would (hurt property values). I just can not believe this will not negatively affect property values.”

Remsburg presented the request to the board, stating the plots in question are in a primary growth area as identified by the county’s 2024 Land Use Plan. He said the former home of the Homeplace facility is in a multi-family neighborhood area as defined by the land use plan.

Remsburg said the facility would be limited to 16 or fewer residents. It will have 10-foot wide vegetation buffers and an eight-foot fence to enclose a courtyard space in the backyard of the property. He said there will be no outpatient counseling, and noted the property is on 14.4 acres, which satisfies a recent ruling by county commissioners for the minimum lot size for a group care facility.

The inpatient facility would be the first for the petitioners at the hearing, The Blanchard Institute, according to founder Ward Blanchard.

John Floyd, a Charlotte attorney appearing before the board for the Institute, said there would be no violent offenders, sex offenders, adolescents or anyone with “any type of severe psychiatric issue.”

Floyd added residents of the facility would not be “people with a history of criminal activity.”

He reiterated Remsburg’s comments regarding the use of the facility, saying it would not be a detoxification facility.

Blanchard said 76% of people struggling with substance use disorder “have a fully functioning job.” When asked later if residents would continue to work at their jobs, Blanchard said they would not, adding residents could not have a car at the facility.

Blanchard said the facility would have a two-to-one ratio of staff to residents. Also, no government subsidies would be used by residents to pay for their stays, just private pay.

Blanchard said the average duration of a resident’s time at the facility would be 28 days.

Blanchard said if a resident wanted to leave against medical advice, they would have to go through a 72-hour process.

“There’s a set plan. They just don’t storm out and walk along the street,” Blanchard said.

When asked whether the facility was locked, Blanchard said, “We can’t take somebody’s civil rights away … the facility is a secure facility with 24/7 staff and 30-minute head checks.” He said the facility is locked and secured “just like anybody’s home would be.”

Blanchard said residents would not have methadone treatments, and not all residents will be from Stanly.

“Everyone is entitled to get health care,” Blanchard said.

Chris Ferris, an appraiser with 28 years of experience who grew up in Cabarrus County and now lives near Locust, testified for The Blanchard Institute.

Ferris said a similar property, Bridge to Recovery in Oakboro, did not impact the sale value of properties around it.

Three citizens spoke in favor of the new facility, including Marion Rath, a resident who lost a son and daughter to substance use.

Debbie Maiers, the Celebrate Recovery coordinator for Uwharrie Community Church in Albemarle, also spoke in favor, saying “we like to think there is no (addiction) problem in Stanly County. I’m telling you right now there is.”

“I’m dealing with the problems that this county has created and not dealing with,” Maiers said.

Several citizens testified before the board with information, but objections were raised by Floyd for “value of information for lack of expert testimony.” Fish said the board “would need somebody who did the analysis work to actually present the work.”

Citizens said they were informed of the matter before the board seven days previous to the meeting. However, Remsburg said in the records Blanchard Institute applied for the special use permit July 26. The county received the permit and payment for it July 31.

He said, according to his understanding from staff, a notice sign went up Aug. 2 and letters were mailed Aug. 3 to residents.

“Who knows how long the U.S. Postal Service takes it to get to those people’s homes? The statutory language says that you’re supposed to have it mailed within 10 to 25 days (of the hearing),” Remsburg said. “Therefore, sufficient notice was given.” He said 12 letters to landowners adjoining to the property were mailed.

The board of adjustments also approved a variance for the facility to allow 16 residents as opposed to the ordinance calling for 20 as a minimum for a group care facility.

Individuals have 30 days to appeal the decision to Stanly County Superior Court.