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Nonprofit seeks permit for 42-bed treatment center

First Contact Ministries, which is supported by Mud Creek Baptist Church, is seeking county zoning approval for a 42-bed addiction treatment facility on Erkwood Drive. Property is at left across from the church. First Contact Ministries, which is supported by Mud Creek Baptist Church, is seeking county zoning approval for a 42-bed addiction treatment facility on Erkwood Drive. Property is at left across from the church.

A ministry of Mud Creek Baptist Church has applied for a special-use permit to build a 42-bed residential treatment facility on Erkwood Drive across from the church.

First Contact Ministries filed the application last week seeking authorization from the Henderson County Zoning Board of Adjustment to build the 19,746-square-foot two-story center on 2.76 acres the church owns between Rutledge Drive and Helms Barbershop.
Residents of Dunroy, Estate Drive, Chanteloupe and other subdivisions are expected to oppose the permit. Seventy neighbors turned out for a meeting at the Henderson County public library last March, when the proposal first became public, and discussed testimony they planned to offer in a zoning hearing.
The property is zoned R-1, which would allow the facility if the Zoning Board of Adjustment grants the special-use permit.
In the application by First Contact president Craig Halford, the non-profit organization says that the Residential Recovery Facility would accommodate 42 individuals in a recovery and treatment program lasting at least 7½ months.
“Residents must undergo rigorous screenings to determine who is the best fit” for the residential program, he said in the application. “The residents will receive professional services, assistance, encouragement and supervision … to address controlled and other substance addiction challenges.” The program is not a mental health treatment facility, he said, nor would it be a detox facility.
FirstContactMapSite of proposed First Contact residential treatment center is outlined in red. Property in purple is in Flat Rock, pink in Hendersonville.The screening process for admittance will bar anyone with “an expected propensity for physical violence,” he said. The building will have “ample security personnel,” security monitoring systems and locked doors at night. “And any resident leaving the building will be escorted by a staff member,” Halford said.
Addressing requirements in the county land-use code for a special-use permit, Halford also said the facility would not harm the value of surrounding property and would be in harmony with the neighborhood, noting that it would blend well with Mud Creek Baptist Church. Hope Academy, Pinebrook Group Home and a counseling center. “The focus of the Residential Recovery Center fits well in the area when considering services already provided by Mud Creek Baptist Church concerning education and counseling services,” he said.
Opponents are likely to challenge the assertion that the treatment center is in harmony with the residential character of the area.
“It’s my opinion that a 15,000-square-foot facility of any kind is not in keeping with the residential character of all the neighborhoods that are around this area,” Hilton Swing, a real estate agent who lives on Chanteloup Drive, said in the March meeting at the library. “What we’re talking about is zoning integrity and zoning compatibility and those are the things that affect our property values.”
By his count, there are some 1,500 homes within a 1-mile radius of Mud Creek church.
Clay Smith, a Dunroy resident, agrees opioid addiction is needed but says the First Contact proposal lacks a key service.
“I don’t believe it’s the right kind of location whether it was near my home or not,” he said. “It’s not close to a medical facility. All the research indicates that’s just an absolute necessity now if you really want to have an effective facility. Unless it’s done with medicine over a long enough period of time they just don’t have the success. … It’s wasted money, it’s wasted effort.”
Halford and Mud Creek, under the leadership of senior minister Greg Mathis, first met about creating First Contact Ministries seven years ago. The organization provides addiction recovery counseling and support and has modeled the proposed center after a Christian-based residential treatment center in Leesburg, Florida. The ongoing opioid addiction crisis makes the effort all the more urgent, Mathis said in an interview with the Lightning in March.
“This is a such a crisis,” he said Mathis. “This is an epidemic, this is an emergency and it’s not a time to fuss over should we do it here. Somebody needs to start and set the example that would be done in multiple places.”