Proposed group home in the Snyderville Basin brings concerns for residents
Wasatch Crest Treatment Facility could house up to 32 patients for 1 to 90 days
Over a decade ago, residents in the Highland Estates area voiced their concerns about an assisted living facility proposed in the neighborhood. Despite fears about the size and quality of the facility, it was built anyway. But with the business now shuttered, homeowners are having the same debate about a new proposal at the site.
Neighborhood residents attended an April 26 Snyderville Basin Planning Commission meeting, where the panel considered granting a conditional-use permit for the South Highland Drive property to be used as a residential treatment facility and group home for people struggling with substance abuse.
The project, called Wasatch Crest Treatment Facility, would utilize the existing 11,000-square-foot facility that used to be BeeHive Homes. It includes 16 bedrooms, 17 1/2 bathrooms, a living room, dining room, kitchen, laundry and office area. The property also has eight parking spots for staff, therapists and visitors, plus space for two to three company vans. The applicant proposed adding four spaces.
Sheila Kirst, who’s lived in the neighborhood for 18 years, said in an interview many homeowners opposed the assisted living facility when it was proposed in 2010 because of its size and lack of compatibility with the neighborhood.
Members of the Summit County Council had no choice but to approve the project because of state law in 2011, and Kirst said the same thing appears to be happening again. Under the development code, residential treatment facilities are allowed in rural residential areas, which is what the Highland Estates area is zoned as.
But unlike the senior home, the Wasatch Crest Treatment Facility will serve nearly double the people.
According to the initial proposal submitted to the Planning Commission, the facility would house two people per bedroom with half of the rooms used for group living and the other half for residential treatment. In total, there could be up to 32 adult men and women living in the home compared to 16 who stayed in the assisted living facility.
Patients in the residential treatment program would stay onsite for approximately one to seven days before being transferred to a facility in Heber City. Those participating in the group-living side could stay anywhere from 30 to 90 days and are allowed to leave the site during the day for work or offsite treatment. The facility would operate at all hours with one to four employees onsite to supervise.
Kirst said she has concerns about the number of patients the facility will house and the ratio of staff to those receiving treatment services. She also worries about the lack of yard space on the 1.4-acre lot and the increased vehicle and foot traffic it could bring. There are also concerns that the proposed treatment center is close to several property lines and a bus stop.
“There’s no way to secure it. It will just be a revolving door of people coming in and out – and that won’t be Parkites,” she said.
Kirst isn’t opposed to the concept of a residential treatment facility as her son struggled with substance abuse, but, she said, her concern is that the proposal is a “money-making insurance scheme” and a social detox program rather than a clinical one. Kirst said she took her son to a rehab facility 11 years ago that charged $35,000 a month. Within the first month of coming home, he relapsed. Nine months later, he died of an overdose.
She fears the freedom that patients have to leave and the proximity to public transit will encourage them to look for illicit substances in the Park City area, where she said there’s a serious drug problem. In severe cases, Kirst said she worries the challenges of going through withdrawal will lead to more home burglaries in the neighborhood.
“There’s no way I’d take [my son] down there to detox. When you think Park City and a rehab facility, wouldn’t you expect it to be one of the best? I want something better than what they’re proposing down there with minimum guidelines,” she said. “We want an appropriate facility … I do not believe a detox center belongs in a neighborhood.”
According to the application, all clients residing in the facility will be sober and participating members of the facility’s treatment program. Wasatch Crest also plans to implement operating standards that have “proven successful” at other locations. These include screening potential clients for admission – registered sex offenders and people with a violent criminal history are not accepted into the program – performing random drug testing to verify sobriety and prohibiting drugs and alcohol onsite, installing a privacy fence along the northeast side of the property, installing a designated smoking area and improving the trash receptacle area.
But, Kirst said the homeowners still agree the project belongs elsewhere. There’s a need for substance abuse treatment facilities in Park City, she said, but they need to be higher quality and located outside of residential zones.
Wasatch Crest said in its application that Utah has one of the highest per-capita rates of substance use disorder and alcohol abuse in the country. The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated the numbers as more people struggle with their mental health, which highlights a need for the project.
“The Company is not aware of any similar facilities in the Summit County area and believes this will be a significant asset to the local community, families and individuals we serve,” the application said.
Kirst described the Highland Estates area as a quiet neighborhood with a mix of young families and older residents. The proposal cannot be denied based on the fact that it’s a group home under state and federal law. However, the Planning Commission can evaluate the facility as it would review any single-family home in the neighborhood.
The review can include parking, setbacks, height, the availability of appropriate utilities and the effect it will have on the community. If the project goes beyond the impacts of a single-family home, the Planning Commission can limit the number of residents – as long as it doesn’t affect the project’s viability – and impose reasonable conditions to mitigate the effects on residents.
“It cannot disrupt our neighborhood, and this will significantly disrupt our neighborhood,” Kirst said. “Safety and quality are the biggest issues.”
She continued, “All we want is to know it is a well-run, safe facility for adults who need recovery. We don’t have an issue with that. We have an issue with the way it’s set up as a social detox.”
The project may appear before the Planning Commission with changes in June. Wasatch Crest did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
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