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Neighbors vow to fight 45-bed treatment facility

The location of proposed treatment facility is outlined in red, at the southeastern corner of Erkwood Drive and Rutledge Drive. The location of proposed treatment facility is outlined in red, at the southeastern corner of Erkwood Drive and Rutledge Drive.

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A nonprofit organization hoping to start a Christ-centered residential drug treatment facility is finding universal support for treatment and bracing for widespread opposition to the location.

Mud Creek Baptist Church and First Contact Ministries are partnering on a plan to start the 7½-month treatment program in a new $3 million facility on Erkwood Drive across from the church.
Officials with First Contact Ministries presented details of their plans for the first time publicly last week during a meeting at Blue Ridge Conference Hall at BRCC.
The crowd was split about 50-50, with dozens of Mud Creek members in favor, said Mike Buck, president of the Dunroy Homeowners Association.
“And those opposed were mostly people that heard about it who weren’t church members and lived within a short distance of the place,” Buck said. “They did a grand job of telling us how badly we need a treatment center in Henderson County. They did a terrible job of justifying the location.”
Answering why that location and not a commercial or more isolated area may be the biggest challenge First Contact Ministries faces. Incorporated as a nonprofit in 2015, First Contact Addiction Ministries provides free support services for addiction and recovery. Craig Halford, the executive director, said the agency is just getting started on the project. He could not get answers to questions posed by the Hendersonville Lightning on Friday because the agency “does not give public statements without discussion among the board members,” he said in an email. “Due to the holidays, our board members are either out of town or enjoying time with family.”
In a fundraising appeal, First Contact describes its plans for a 15,000-square-foot residential treatment facility that would serve 33 men and 12 men in a 7½-month program.
“These are local men and women from our community who are desperately seeking an opportunity for transformation in their lives, and may not find the help they need anywhere else,” First Contact says.
On Dec. 19, Mud Creek voted to grant First Contact a long-term lease of church-owned property on the southeastern corner of Erkwood Drive and Rutledge Drive. First Contact says it needs to raise $3 million for construction.
“Construction on this facility will not start until the necessary funds are raised,” the agency says.
Within a stone’s throw of the city of Hendersonville and village of Flat Rock boundaries, the Mud Creek property is actually in unincorporated Henderson County. Halford met with John Mitchell, Henderson County’s director of business development, about the zoning requirements.
“First thing is that they haven’t submitted any plans,” Mitchell said. One part of the 2.6-acre parcel is zoned R-40 residential and the other is zoned R-1. R-40 does not allow a residential treatment center; R-1 would allow one if the Zoning Board of Adjustment granted a special-use permit.
“Either way, there would be a 45- to 90-day window of approval,” Mitchell said.

‘Not compatible’ with surrounding use

Hilton Swing, a real estate agent who lives on Chanteloup Drive off Erkwood, said the question is likely to center on the compatibility of the new use.
“The question begins and ends with whether the zoning is appropriate,” he said. “Other than the church, everything around there is residential. It’s my personal opinion that it’s not compatible with the zoning. I would be upset if they put a 15,000-square-foot Walgreens or a 15,000-square-foot hotel or whatever there.”
Buck said neighbors are worried about security.
“It’s an invitation to the drug dealers of the county to gather around that building after dark,” he said. “The treatment center said they looked diligently at all the camps in the area before finding out about this free land that the church is giving them. Soon as they got the free land, they stopped looking at anything else. This place does not belong in a residential area.”
Buck said he and others who live near Mud Creek understand the need for a treatment center geared toward opioid addiction.
“This isn’t a question of ‘not in my neighborhood.’ We all want that,” he said. “There was zero favorable response from the people running the place about looking for a different location but there was complete agreement on everybody in the room that we need not only one, we need probably 10 opioid resource centers.”
Buck said residents of Dunroy are prepared to attend meetings of the Planning Board, Board of Adjustment and the Board of Commissioners to express their opposition to a treatment center on Erkwood Drive.