Board of Zoning Appeals rejects appeal for “recovery residence” in Roanoke neighborhood

Published: Oct. 14, 2020 at 7:45 PM EDT
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - A scheduled Board of Zoning Appeals meeting for Roanoke city began at 1 p.m. Wednesday, but did not conclude until well after 5 p.m. The item that took the most amount of time was an appeal for 802 Oakwood Drive.

The first matter of business for the appeal was for the board to decide whether to dismiss the appeal altogether on the grounds that an appeal must be filed 30 days after the zoning administrators determination of “recovery residences” made March 13.

But the board wanted to proceed with the appeal, and did not dismiss it.

Attorney Jim Cowan, hired by every member of the Oak Hill subdivision, spoke the most, citing the definition of “group home” does not in fact fit the operation taking place on Oakwood Drive. According to the city’s GIS records, the home was purchased June 4, 2020, by Capgrow Holding, the parent company of Pinnacle Treatment Services.

Soon thereafter, the group began operating “a recovery residence” at the house, because of the determination from March.

“On March 13th, 2020, the zoning administrator made a determination that a recovery residence is substantially the same as a group home under the zoning ordinance, and thus allowed by right under the residential zoning districts," said Senior Assistant City Attorney Tim Spencer.

But the determination about 802 specifically didn’t happen until July 31. By the time neighbors told the board Wednesday, they had already experienced issues with extra traffic, an abundance of secondhand smoke, and foul language.

Throughout the course of the meeting, several neighbors spoke, including an 18-year-old resident through a video submission.

“Hi I’m Savannah Derey, I’m 18, I’m a senior at Patrick Henry High School, and I grew up in this neighborhood, on Oakwood Drive."

Another neighbor said “it is unnerving to not know who is living on the street” and that it "changes every few weeks.“

Judge Diane Strickland is one of the neighbors on Oakwood, who echoed what another neighbor, John Harlow, told us Tuesday, that the neighborhood is not against the recovery residence.

“I know our local treatment community, Roanoke city is a welcoming community, and we don’t discriminate against addicts," said Strickland.

The issue rather lies in the the zoning for the house, which at any given time is home to eight men who stay for only a few weeks at a time, who receive treatment at an off-site location.

According to the director of Virginia’s Association of Recovery Residences, that’s why the residence does not need a license from the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services.

“Why is it that Pinnacle is afraid to have their activities scrutinized by DBHDS? There are other questions I hope you ask if any of their representatives speak today," said Strickland.

After questioning from the board to the zoning administrator, and closing statements from Spencer and Cowan, the board voted 5-1 against the appeal.

If you’d like to watch the full hearing, you can do so here.

Follow this link to WDBJ7′s previous coverage.

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