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'Everybody wants to see solutions (to addiction) but not in their backyard'

First Contact Ministries has applied for a permit to use a $1.3 million home on Fork Creek Road in Saluda for a treatment center. First Contact Ministries has applied for a permit to use a $1.3 million home on Fork Creek Road in Saluda for a treatment center.

SALUDA — The founder of a church-based organization that wants to start an 18-bed treatment center in a luxury home in Saluda said he's expecting neighbors to oppose the effort during a zoning hearing today.

“Everybody wants to see some solutions but not in their backyard,” Craig Halford, president and founder of First Contact Ministries, said in an interview Monday.

First Contact filed an application on Aug. 31 with the Zoning Board of Adjustment seeking a special-use permit to use the 5,200-square-foot home as an assisted living residence. The four-bedroom, five-bath home on 34 acres at 4353 Fork Creek Road is valued at $928,800 for tax purposes and currently listed for sale for $1.3 million. First Contact currently has the purchase under contract, Halford said. Funding for the treatment center came from a $1.5 million state appropriation state Sen. Chuck Edwards announced in November 2021.

Halford said that First Contact plans to operate a six-month treatment program for men ages 18-70 who have been through detox, with a maximum capacity of 18 patients.

“Residents will be transported by the ministry from the ministry office in Hendersonville so traffic will not be affected,” Halford said in response to the permit application’s requirement that the use “be in harmony with the surrounding area.” “There will be no activities that will affect the harmony of the neighborhood. Residents will be there voluntarily and should someone decide to leave we will transport them off the property.”

Halford emphasized how isolated the home is.

“If you want to show (how isolated it is) you need to do an aerial photo of this property," he said. "There’s 19,000 acres of wilderness behind it and 34 acres of wooded land in front of us. I don’t know how we can get more isolated.”

The home is at the end of a quarter-mile driveway up a mountain, the application said. There are only three conventional houses and one mobile home on Fork Creek Road. The special-use permit application identified the site plan preparer as David Hill, a land surveyor who is also a Henderson County commissioner. Hill said Monday he’s done work for First Contact in the past. He’s not a member of Mud Creek Baptist Church.

Although the organization started at Mud Creek, First Contact Ministries is an independent nonprofit, Halford said. The organization has been trying for several years to build a treatment facility or find a home for one. It tried unsuccessfully in October 2018 to win a special-use permit to build a 42-bed residential treatment facility across Erkwood Road from the church. After three nights of hearings, the county Zoning Board of Adjustment voted unanimously to deny the permit.

“People are dying every day because of this issue and we’re trying to at least prove provide some sort of a solution,” Halford said. “We will continue our navigation services. This is for men now. But at some point in the future we will be looking potentially at other properties for a women’s facility. So we will continue the services that we’ve been doing for 18 years to the community.”

The zoning board is scheduled to hear the Fork Creek Road request at 4 p.m. today at 100 N. King St.