Leave Feedback

Church Hill commission moves to restrict methadone clinics

Jeff Bobo • Mar 2, 2009 at 12:00 AM

CHURCH HILL — A proposed Church Hill ordinance would make it nearly impossible for a methadone clinic or drug treatment facility to move into the city.

Some members of the Church Hill Planning Commission weren’t shy about admitting that’s their intention before voting Monday evening to recommend the ordinance to the Board of Mayor and Aldermen.

First Tennessee Development District planning adviser Rhonda Sawyer presented the Planning Commission Monday with a proposed methadone zoning ordinance. Sawyer noted that most Tennessee municipalities will be considering similar ordinances.

Following a lengthy discussion, the Planning Commission voted unanimously to recommend the ordinance to the BMA as submitted by Sawyer.

The ordinance would only allow methadone clinics and drug treatment facilities to be located within the M-1 (industrial) zone. Those type facilities would also have to be more than 1,000 feet from a school, day-care facility, park, church, mortuary, hospital, public recreation area, residential dwelling or establishment that sells alcoholic beverages.

Church Hill has only two parcels zoned M-1.

One M-1 area is slightly under 10 acres of vacant property on Kingsport Press Road adjoining the Southern Railroad to the south.

The other M-1 property is the far western tip of the Holston Army Ammunition Plant along Highway 11-W behind a security fence.

City Attorney Chris Raines cautioned the Planning Commission against approving an ordinance that makes it impossible for a methadone or drug treatment clinic to locate inside the city limits. Raines said it would be unconstitutional and wouldn’t hold up in court if a clinic challenged Church Hill’s zoning restrictions.

“The broader your restrictions are, the more likely it is to be held unconstitutional,” Raines said. “If we adopted an ordinance that excludes every area, it’s the same as saying we don’t permit methadone clinics, and that is unconstitutional.”

Commissioner Robert Stidham argued that the proposal doesn’t necessarily make it impossible. Although the Kingsport Press Road property is within 1,000 feet of a residential dwelling and excluded, Stidham noted that the HAAP property would fall within the restrictions.

“Who says they can’t put it up yonder (on the HAAP property)?” Stidham said. “They can contract with the (federal) government. We wouldn’t have anything to do with that.

“That would be between them and the government.”

Stidham said his main goal with this issue is to keep those type clinics away from schools.

Mayor Dennis Deal said the ordinance recommendation is justified because “we followed the same procedures as other cities.”

“I know you’ve got to have these (clinics), but you’ve also got to protect the taxpayers,” Deal said.

Sawyer said if the city doesn’t adopt a methadone zoning ordinance, those type clinics could locate anywhere in the city zoned for medical use. She added that the ordinance presented to the Planning Commission Monday is identical to what her office is submitting to every municipality it serves, although BMAs have the right to make changes.

Most cities are addressing the issue by placing methadone clinics and drug treatment facilities in the most restrictive zone available, Sawyer added.

So far Unicoi and Tusculum have approved this same ordinance, Greeneville is considering it, and Johnson City is considering an ordinance with more stringent restrictions, Sawyer said.

The Church Hill BMA is expected to consider the ordinance when it meets in regular session March 17.

Recommended for You