South Ogden approves old monastery as rehab center

Saturday , August 16, 2014 - 9:04 AM

Standard-Examiner staff

SOUTH OGDEN — The city planning commission voted 5-0 Thursday night to approve a conditional use permit allowing the old Mount Benedict Monastery building to be reopened as a residential addiction treatment facility.

The commission’s decision document, posted to the city’s website, says the commission “approves a reasonable accommodation,” and will allow the monastery to be occupied by up to 20 patients and 10 full-time, or full-time equivalent, support staff. Commission members Shannon Sebahar and Chris Hansen did not vote. Hansen abstained. Sebahar said Friday she had recused herself from involvement in the matter months ago because she lives in the affected neighborhood.

Mike Jorgensen, director of STEPS Recovery Program, had originally requested a permit for 64 patients. 

“Allowing 20 disabled persons to reside in the facility, the same number of persons who could have resided at the monastery, in a structure that already exists and meets zoning requirements, will not fundamentally alter what is presently allowed on the property by the R-1-10 zone,” the decision says. 

The commission rejected the higher number of patients because Jorgensen did not provide information “explaining and justifying why 64 persons is ’necessary’,” the decision says.

An appeal can be made up to 14 calendar days after the final decision was announced. Jorgensen said he will review the decision with his legal counsel before commenting on his course of action.

More than 50 people attended Thursday’s meeting, many of whom were members of the neighboring community and were not pleased with the decision. Among them was Randall Parkinson, who lives next to the monastery. 

“I don’t feel like the planning commission, nor the (city) council, nor the mayor is with the residents of South Ogden at all,” Parkinson said. “They are off on their own. They have not supported us, not had anything positive to say towards our wishes and desires; it’s just unfortunate. Those people that we have elected are against us.”

Like several other members of the affected community, Parkinson is concerned that the rehabilitation center will harm the property values of surrounding homes, including his own. Although he said he does not plan to sell his property, he has estimated a 25 percent loss to the value of homes in the area. 

“This complex, as I see it, brings absolutely no dollars to South Ogden city, as far as revenue,” he said. “It’s going to cost us because, as our homes depreciate, property taxes will be lowered. So, South Ogden will come out on the negative end.”

Another concern is the expected increased traffic flow in the neighborhood, particularly on 1075 East. Kim Didier, a resident in the area, said that is of concern to her.

“It’s not just the people that are there,” Didier said. “And they are transient residents; they’re not staying there, they aren't residents that will be there for a long time. The max they can be there is 90 days, and they have a lot of people coming to see them. You have a lot of staff, you have delivery trucks and there’s only one way in and out of there. So, yes, we are very concerned about that.”

But Jorgensen said residents are anticipating the rehabilitation center will bring far more traffic to the neighborhood than it actually will.

“We’re not what we they think we are,” he said. “People who are there want to be there ...There’s a lot of confusion on how many people will be coming and going and it isn't that way. They come and they live here.”

Although tensions have been high surrounding the monastery property, Jorgensen said the community has been respectful; he’s had worse experiences in other areas. 

“They've been so good, they really have,” he said. “These guys, including the city, they've been nice and kind. The neighbors agree to disagree, but they’ve been cordial and civil about it.”

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