Council denies operation of a substance abuse treatment center i - KXXV Central Texas News Now

Council denies operation of a substance abuse treatment center in East Waco

(Source: KXXV) (Source: KXXV)

On Tuesday night, the city council denied the operation of a proposed substance abuse treatment center in East Waco.

City Planning Services staff and the City Planning Commission had recommended the approval of the special permit for the transitional shelter on Seley Ave. However, council member for District One, Wilbert Austin Sr., proposed the motion to disapprove the special permit for ABODE Treatment.

ABODE Treatment, which has facilities in North Texas, proposed to open a residential treatment center to serve people, including those of the criminal justice system and the Department of Family and Protective Services.

The 24-hour-facility would have to be unlocked, and would require clients the need to provide evidence of the reason for leaving and the future location, according to the ABODE application.

At the Waco City Council's meeting on Tuesday night, Carver Neighborhood Association Board Member and McLennan County Justice of the Peace Precinct 2, James Lee, presented a petition with 260 signatures of neighbors opposing to the facility.

Earlier on Tuesday, Lee told News Channel 25, several members of the community opposed to the opening of the facility.

"I've spoken with several citizens who fear their safety. The fear the place is not going to be secure, seeing as it's not a shelter. Seeing that you are going to be housing people that are recently incarcerated," Lee said.

In addition, he said there are concerns regarding devaluation of properties as well.

"Once a facility comes here, maybe the property values will go down. I think it will be hard for a real estate area to market a home that is close by a facility such as this," Lee said.

At Tuesday night's city council meeting, at least fourteen people spoke against the facility. The top concerns, included safety of their children and devaluation of property. The residents said they already have transients or people from a previous mental facility going to their property. 

In addition, some neighbors complained about not being informed about the proposal of the facility opening. 

The ABODE Treatment center CEO, McKinley Knox Jr., and a staff member of a facility in North Texas spoke in favor of the facility. 

Before the council made its decision, Knox Jr. explained the population they would house would be low-risk offenders from the Central Texas area. He said the proposed $1.5 million facility would create 30 to 50 jobs in the community.

According to City's Senior Planner Beatriz Wharton, city staff recommended approval of a special permit because they thought there was a need for this facility in that area. In addition, she said a similar substance abuse treatment facility in the West Waco area has operated for five years with no complaints. 

Two years ago, city staff Plan Commission, the city council and members of the community opposed a transitional shelter for troubled teens requested by another applicant.

Wharton said community members had concerns about school districts being unable to house those children.

Lee said both requests to open a treatment center are very similar.

"I don't think there is that much of a difference. If anything the kids need a little bit more of attention than the adults," Lee said.

ABODE Treatment would have to wait a year to reapply for a special permit.

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