Town right to approve Main Street rehab center

All questions have been answered. No valid reason found to deny rezoning.

info@islandpacket.comFebruary 19, 2014 

We appreciate the concerns residents raised about a proposed rehabilitation center for addiction and depression at the current site of the Main Street Inn & Spa.

Vocal residents -- rightfully wanting to protect themselves and their neighbors as well as property values -- sought information about whether those staying at the center would be violent or held against their will, whether they would pose risks to students at nearby schools, whether such a center could become a magnet for drug dealers and drug activity and what would be the impact on nearby businesses and homes.

It took longer than it should have, but we now have those answers from those who would know best, and we see no reason why the rezoning should not have been approved by Town Council.

We have learned that:

  • There is a lack of criminal activity around other Sunspire centers, according to a survey by Beaufort County Sheriff P.J. Tanner. Of the few police calls made to the facilities, most were for fire alarms, medical emergencies, health and welfare checks, Tanner said.

  • Sunspire facilities do not hurt property values. David Bachelder of Charter 1 Commercial spoke with Realtors in communities where Sunspire runs facilities -- all said Sunspire's facilities have had a positive impact. "All the reports I collected ... (show) that it is a good neighbor and an asset to the associated communities, with no adverse impact on residential real estate values," Bachelder told council. In fact, a developer in Cathedral City, Calif., plans to build 31 homes next to Sunspire's Desert Palms Recovery Center. That doesn't sound like a drug magnet spot or a place where schoolchildren are vulnerable.

  • Town leaders and Sunspire officials have answered many questions, assuring the community that those seeking treatment fit a certain profile and are unlikely to cause the kind of trouble some residents fear. For example, the facility will treat nonviolent patients admitted voluntarily. It will not treat people serving jail sentences, recently released prison inmates or those participating in a court diversion program. It will not serve the indigent or those suffering from chronic mental illness. Clients will be supervised around the clock and prohibited from leaving the property without staff supervision. To help ensure these rules are followed, the center will put up discreet fencing and security cameras.

  • We're also encouraged by the fact that the center will employ exactly the kind of high-paid professionals the Town of Hilton Head Island has been working to attract: board-certified physicians, psychologists, social workers and counselors.

    And while Main Street features restaurants and shops, it also includes assisted living facilities and a range of medical and psychiatric offices, lessening the validity that a treatment facility is out of place. In fact, the hospital and surrounding doctor's offices already provide limited services to those with addiction and mental health issues. It is disingenuous to pretend that people dealing with these difficult issues are not our neighbors and friends who are already in the Main Street area and seeking help.

    And the center fills a need, according to Hilton Head Hospital president and CEO Mark O'Neill, complementing services provided by the nearby hospital.

    This information, provided by community leaders -- not outdated stereotypes about those suffering from addiction -- have convinced us that the center deserves a chance. Conjecture would not have been an adequate reason for Town Council to deny a zoning change that would ensure the continued use of a large building, employment of much-sought professionals and the creation of a needed community resource.

    Is it possible that this center could somehow yield different results from the other Sunspire centers? That it may lead to an uptick in crime? We doubt it, but it's possible. And if that happens, it will be incumbent on Town Council, the Sheriff's Office and Sunspire to tackle and resolve the issue at lightning speed. Nearby residents and businesses deserve that, especially after the assurances that have been given.

    But we suspect the community will not be troubled by the center -- and an important resource will find a home.

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