El Paso County planning staff have signed off on a California company’s controversial plan to build a luxury rehab center in the Woodmoor area north of Colorado Springs.
The decision is a green light for Mountain Springs Recovery, which will open “in the coming months,” Sunshine Behavioral Health CEO Chad Daugherty said in a statement.
The rehab center, slated for 1865 Woodmoor Drive on the site of a former Ramada motel, has been vehemently opposed by some area residents who say it’s not appropriate in that location and could attract criminals.
“We will continue to listen to the concerns of our neighbors, and we are confident that ultimately, Mountain Springs will play an important role in addressing the epidemic of drug and alcohol addiction in El Paso County,” Daugherty said.
An opposition group told The Gazette on Friday that it would appeal the approval of the site development plan, which was posted to a county website Friday.
“It isn’t that we don’t want a rehab center. It’s just that this is just not the right place for it. It’s so close to the businesses and to the schools,” said Sam Schafer, organizer of Take Action El Paso County.
At a contentious public meeting held by the company in Monument in August, dozens of residents laid out other concerns: that the center would decrease nearby home values, increase traffic on local roads, and expose young people in the surrounding community to dangerous habits. They also criticized Sunshine Behavioral for not holding the public meeting until after the company had paid $4 million for the former motel.
About 150 pages of comments from residents opposed to the project were submitted to the county planning staff during the site plan review. Petitions, with hundreds of signatures, saying the center “will jeopardize and put at extreme high-risk public safety and health,” also were given to staff.
The public outcry was reminiscent of the outrage three years ago over a proposed methadone clinic roughly a mile from the former hotel. Colonial Management Group, which sued Monument after officials denied it a business license to open the clinic, agreed to leave the town for a $900,000 settlement that was finalized in 2016.
Sunshine Behavioral has repeatedly emphasized its center won’t administer methadone. It will be similar to another facility the company operates, Texas-based Willow Springs Recovery, a resort-style campus with group therapy, detox services and other programs and resources onsite.
Mountain Springs Recovery would open with about 54 beds and eventually expand, said Jared Raymond, Sunshine Behavioral vice president of project management.
Raymond said that many of the residents’ concerns are based on “false information.”
“I think that just comes from a lot of people being irrationally afraid of something because they just don’t want it in their backyard,” he said.
Sex offenders, people convicted of violent crimes, and substance abusers court-ordered to participate in a rehabilitation program would not be accepted, Daugherty has said.
A memo, prepared by traffic engineering firm CLH Associates and submitted with the site plan proposal, estimates that the rehab center would see a fraction of the traffic associated previously with the motel.
The site plan shows that the property includes a main office and several other buildings clustered around a courtyard.
The company has proposed adding landscaping and building a 7-foot tall cedar fence around the complex.
Sunshine Behavioral still needs approval from Pikes Peak Regional Building Department to begin renovations and a Colorado license to operate the inpatient rehabilitation facility, Raymond said.
Because a zoning change was not needed for the rehab center, a public hearing before the county commissioners wasn’t required.
The board will make a ruling, however, if an appeal is made.
Anyone seeking an appeal of an administrative action has 30 days to file a written appeal with county Planning and Community Development Executive Director Craig Dossey, county spokesman Ryan Parsell said.
After the appeal is submitted, it will be scheduled for a hearing before the board within 35 days, according to a resolution previously approved by commissioners that outlines the process.