Robeson County Commissioner denies zoning request for rehabilitation center near Parkton
LUMBERTON — The Robeson County Board of Commissioners ended plans to establish a drug rehabilitation center near Parkton at a meeting on Monday.
Commissioners voted 7 to 1 to block the rezoning of a 9.4-acre parcel of land at 1165 E. Parkton Tombemory Road from an RA residential agricultural district to a C-1 neighborhood commercial district. An application was also made for a special use permit, but the action was not considered with the rejection of the rezoning.
The rezoning is a critical step in the construction of a drug rehabilitation center to be established by Hope Alive Inc., said Oryan Lowery, Executive Director of the not-for-profit entity.
Ahead of the council vote, Robeson County director of planning and inspections Dixon Ivey told commissioners that after hearing several complaints from area residents, the county planning board had recommended the rezoning be denied. .
“There were quite a number of people present at the meeting who were opposed to this project,” Ivey told the commissioners.
Ivey said a petition with 26 names of people opposed to the installation was submitted to him on Monday morning, ahead of the meeting.
Commissioner Lance Herndon, who represents the district where the center is proposed, said the issue is one of the biggest issues he has had to address in his district since serving on council.
“The planning board recommended denial and I made my motion based on the feeling that it just wouldn’t sit well with the community,” Herndon told The Robesonian.
The only Commissioner in favor of the rezoning was Commissioner David Edge.
“It’s ridiculous that we denied that,” Edge told The Robesonian. “This group asked for help from the state to start a rehabilitation program and they gave them much more than they asked for because of the serious problem we have here in Robeson County.
“It’s a great opportunity for the county and they selected probably one of the best sites that could be had in a low density community. It’s ridiculous that it wasn’t accepted,” Edge said.
Edge said it’s not a question of if the install will happen but when.
“I’m sure they’re going to sue us and I’m sure they’re going to win,” Edge said.
Ahead of the vote, Lowry addressed concerns raised at the Planning Board meeting, one being the potential decline in land values of neighboring properties.
“There have been studies across the United States that debunk this,” Lowry told a public hearing. “They even came up with an acronym called NIMBY – Not In My Back Yard.”
Ron Barnes told commissioners that since acquiring the property, the non-profit organization has improved the area. The non-profit organization Hope Alive was started by the pastors of Barnes Church, Greater Hope International Church in Lumberton.
“Before we entered this area and before we went there and worked outside the facility, the facility was overrun with rats. It was overrun with snakes. The grass hadn’t been cut,” Barnes said. “It was an eyesore within the community. We have since changed that. We will not have a detrimental impact on the community. We will uplift the community.
Lowry and Barnes reiterated that there is no “perfect place” to install a facility like this in Robeson County.
“[B]But given the infrastructure in place in Parkton, we felt like we did our research and felt like this was a great opportunity,” Lowry said.
What made the facility’s location in Parkton ideal was that it had been used as a retirement home in the past under the name Green Manor Rest Home, Barnes said.
“We can enter with a very minor arrangement. We can turn this facility into a therapeutic community,” Barnes said.
The therapeutic community would include 24-hour medical staff and 24-hour security personnel with a “state-of-the-art” security system to protect the community, according to Barnes.
“We have an epidemic moving through our county at an absolutely unprecedented rate,” Barnes said.
Shon Pevia told commissioners that her brother was one of the victims of the outbreak. He was laid to rest on Sunday after suffering from a 40-year addiction.
“He had to go to a facility in Wilmington for help and that’s where he died on Monday,” Pevia said. “Every day he would call me and ask if the facility was still running ‘so I could go home and be with my family for help’.
Pevia said he now has his own business, but he too suffered from drug addiction for 17 years.
“Everyone keeps saying we want to help, but we don’t want to help in our areas,” Pevia said.
Barnes told the Robesonian he was “disappointed” with the commissioner’s decision but would continue to work on building the facility.
“We will take whatever action is necessary,” Barnes said.
The building should include a residential facility that has phases including a detox crisis phase, a residential treatment model and a therapeutic community phase and an aftercare program that includes transfer to a center with peer support.
The center is funded by a $10 million allocation to Hope Alive by lawmakers in the state budget signed into law by Governor Roy Cooper on November 18, 2021. Hope Alive is a nonprofit organization of Greater Hope International Church in Lumberton.
The stipend will be distributed by providing $5 million in this fiscal year that ends June 30 and $5 million in fiscal year 2022-23, according to Senate Bill 105.
Hope Alive, which has never provided such medical care before, will partner with Robeson Health Care Corporation to provide services.
Tomeka Sinclair can be reached at [email protected] or 910-416-5865.