HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Roanoke County Gets Ready To Fight Drug Clinic
Pubdate: Wed, 24 Sep 2003
Source: Roanoke Times (VA)
Copyright: 2003 Roanoke Times
Author: Tim Thornton, Staff writer Laurence Hammack contributed.
Bookmark: (Methadone)


'We'll Probably Get Sued One Way Or The Other,' County Supervisor Says

County Administrator Elmer Hodge Said That There Are "Many Suitable Locations"
In The County For Such A Facility, But Did Not Name Any Of Those Locations. 

The Roanoke County Board of Supervisors is gearing up to fight a proposed
methadone clinic at the corner of Ogden Road and Colonial Avenue. 

"We will certainly do everything in our power," board Chairman Joe McNamara
told a citizens' task force Tuesday. Later, the board went behind closed doors
to discuss probable litigation related to the clinic. 

Cave Spring Supervisor Fuzzy Minnix said the county is likely to be sued no
matter how the dispute between residents and the clinic's owners turns out. 

"It might come at us from either side," Minnix said. "We'll probably get sued
one way or the other." 

Life Center of Galax wants to use a former medical office at 3390 Colonial Ave.
as an outpatient clinic to provide methadone and counseling to patients
addicted to OxyContin, heroin and other opium-based drugs. The clinic would be
open from 5 a.m. to 2 p.m. seven days a week. 

It would be licensed and regulated by state and federal agencies, including the
Drug Enforcement Agency. 

After a Monday night community meeting that drew more than 200 people to the
Brambleton Center, Minnix appointed a 10-member citizens ' task force to combat
the clinic. 

Mark Graham, pastor of St. John Lutheran Church and the group's chairman, said
he's hoping the company - he called it an "out-of-state, for-profit company" -
will realize the site it's chosen is too close to schools and likely to disrupt
the neighborhood. 

"We would hope that common sense would prevail," Graham said. "We're hoping to
implore upon their social conscience." 

If that fails, the county may oppose the clinic during the federal and state
licensing processes or try to block the clinic with conditions placed on the
property in 1989, though those conditions were amended in 1997. The county also
may try to make an issue of the fact that a doctor will not be at the clinic
every hour that it's open. 

Graham, who lives next to the proposed clinic site, told the board, "It's a
serious problem for our children, for our families, for safety, for the value
of our homes. We need you to help us solve this problem." 

One problem facing the group is that Life Center's plans meet the county's
zoning requirements, according to a letter that county zoning administrator
David Halladay wrote to Life Center's attorney in June. 

"Sometimes things wriggle their way through our zoning ordinances," McNamara

The board voted Tuesday to amend county zoning ordinances to require special
use permits for medical offices. Special use permits must be approved by the
planning commission and the board. 

Since February,the zoning ordinance for the city of Roanoke has required
medical clinics in some commercial districts to receive a special exemption
from the board of zoning appeals. 

Although Life Center has been looking for sites for a satellite methadone
clinic for the past year, city planning director Brian Townsend said the zoning
change was not prompted by a specific proposal from the clinic. 

Life Center first contacted Roanoke County about establishing a clinic in
April, but county officials say they didn't know the company was considering
the Ogden and Colonial site until they read about it in the newspaper. 

"It was a surprise to us, as it was to you," County Administrator Elmer Hodge
told the board Tuesday. 

Hodge said he understands the need for such a clinic and that there are "many
suitable locations" in the county for such a facility. He did not name any of
those locations. 

Merri Romberg, a member of the task force, suggested that the best place might
be outside Southwest Virginia. 

Minnix said the best place for a methadone clinic is within a larger medical

"It needs to be at a Lewis-Gale ," he said, referring to a medical center and
clinic in Salem. "It needs to be at a Roanoke Memorial. One of those places." 

Both of those places are outside Roanoke County, but Minnix said that's not his
point. "We're not trying to ship it somewhere else." 

"Our concern is not against those who are recovering from drugs," Minnix said.
"Our concern is to have this type of operation in an appropriate setting. And
this is not an appropriate setting." 

Graham, the task force chairman, said, "It's not just a case of 'not in my back
yard ,' but what is best for everyone."
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