Island council endorses turning inn into rehab center

tbarton@islandpacket.comJanuary 7, 2014 

  • In other action

    Also approved by council Tuesday:

    • A final vote to end the town's solid waste and recycling franchise agreement with Republic Services on March 31. Residents and communities on Hilton Head must find new trash haulers starting in April.
    • A budget amendment authorizing the town to spend $175,000 to remove two abandoned shrimp boats from Jarvis Creek. Believing it has waited long enough -- and with little confidence the owners can afford to remove the boats -- the town will step in to remove the vessels that became stuck Aug. 14.
    • Schematic designs for Chaplin Linear Park, a 1.5-mile, $8 million-to-$9-million park trail that would stretch from Shelter Cove to Collier Beach.

A plan to turn The Main Street Inn & Spa, a boutique hotel on Hilton Head Island, into a treatment center for those suffering from drug and alcohol addiction and mental health disorders won overwhelming support from Town Council on Tuesday.

Council voted 6-0 -- with Lee Edwards absent -- to recommend the property be rezoned to allow the change. Some nearby businesses have objected, fearing the rehab center would attract drug dealers and the mentally disturbed and hurt their business. None of the businesspeople, though, spoke publicly at Tuesday's meeting; those who were present declined comment afterward.

Council members largely dismissed those concerns, believing them misguided. Councilman Bill Harkins, who represents the area, and Mayor Drew Laughlin said the center fills an unmet need for behavioral health services and adds another dimension to health care services on the island.

"I understand those concerns, but I don't know (if) they're well-founded," Laughlin said after the meeting. "... There is a desire to have a productive use for their properties and promote health services and a potential growth sector on the island. I don't believe it will present a problem for surrounding property owners."

The inn's owner wants to sell the 33-room property after failed efforts to expand, and has a buyer who wants to use it as a residential treatment center, said attorney Walter Nester of the McNair Law Firm.

The rezoning would allow clinical services, including diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation for drug and alcohol dependency, and mental health services for nonviolent patients. Treatment would include overnight lodging, according to Nester and town staff.

The facility could not treat people serving jail sentences, recently released prison inmates or parolees, or those who require court-ordered therapy, senior town planner Jayme Lopko has said.

Nester said the buyer, Behavioral Health Solutions, operates several facilities across the U.S. that treat addictions and psychological disorders, including licensed residential rehab centers in California, Florida, Massachusetts and Oregon.

Town staff has said the treatment center would be a viable business opportunity not dissimilar to nearby assisted living facilities and offices along Main Street that provide medical, dental and psychiatric care.


Video: Mayor Laughlin on waste hauling, land rezoning and boat removal (1:22)

Hilton Head Island Mayor Drew Laughlin talks Jan. 7, 2014, about ending Republic Services' waste hauling contract, the rezoning of land on Hilton Head to allow for a drug treatment facility and the use of public money to remove to abandoned boats in Jarvis Creek. Tom Barton

The rezoning requires a second vote by council for approval.

Follow reporter Tom Barton at twitter.com/IPBG_Tom.

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