Clean-and-sober house draws fire from its neighbors
August 15, 2008 · Updated 12:45 PM
t Home for recovering addicts not appropriate
in a residential
area, they say.
A Port Orchard house designed as a “clean-and-sober” residence has raised the ire of neighbors who don’t feel the facility is appropriate for their neighborhood and that the occupants provide a bad influence on their children.
The residence, at 2406 Anderson Ave., has housed eight recovering female drug users since this spring. It was bought in a foreclosure sale, renovated and leased to the Cascade Recovery Center as a rehab facility.
Several neighbors objected to this use and held a meeting two weeks ago.
One of the neighbors, Janet Fleck, addressed the Port Orchard City Council during its public comment period on Tuesday night. This followed a presentation by Cascade Recovery Center Director Rick Bialock and several neighbors who supported the venture.
“There is a place for this kind of house,” Fleck said. “I don’t think this is the right environment. It is smack in the middle of two bus stops and very near where kids play. I support the idea of a clean-and-sober house, but don’t think that putting it in a neighborhood with this many kids is right.”
Fleck said that her 13-year old son, who is a “very open kid,” visited the house and had inappropriate conversations with one of the residents.
“I don’t think that someone should have those kinds of conversations with my son without my knowledge,” Fleck said. “And I think we should have been notified before this facility moved into our neighborhood.”
According to Port Orchard Mayor Lary Coppola, the city has regulations governing the number of unrelated residents living in a given residential location.
By state law, no notice is required to located this type of facility. So the city didn’t even know it was there until the residents brought it to their attention.
Coppola said the city’s code enforcement people went in and checked, and, “They are complying with all the legal regulations governing what they’re doing.”
“There are a number of people that live in the community who have legitimate concerns,” Bialock said. “(Fleck) is the only one who was willing to come to this meeting and voice those concerns. I admire her. To do this takes a lot of courage.
“But I think these fears are unrealistic,” he said. “I am willing to explain how the house works to any of the neighbors privately, and I will give them my 24/7 number so they can call me if anything happens that will make them uncomfortable.”
The eight women are supervised by a staff member, although not around the clock. Bialock said many of the women are drug court participants, which means they have a powerful incentive to stay clean and sober.
“If they don’t follow the rules, they go to jail,” he said. “And if we find that someone has broken the rules, they will be on the street in 15 minutes.”
These rules include no drugs or alcohol, meeting attendance and no overnight guests — although some of the women have limited overnight custody of their children.
Since the house was in compliance with all permit requirements, there was no action the city could take.
Coppola suggested Bialock and Fleck “go outside and see if you can settle this between you.”
Which they did.
“If it glorified the experience, that’s clearly inappropriate behavior on the part of that resident,” Coppola said later of the interaction between the resident and the child. “On the other hand, perhaps the discussion was meant to serve as a warning to the child about what could happen, and how easy it is to become trapped by the effects of drugs and alcohol. Since none of us listened in, we’ll never know for sure. But I certainly understand that parent’s concern.”
Bialock and Fleck talked for more than an hour, with Bialock restating his promise to meet with each neighbor in order to explain the rules and allay their fears.
Several neighbors did not speak or show up at the meeting for fear of reprisal, according to one who asked not to be identified.
She said one of the residents approached her during a yard sale in a confrontational way, asking “if anyone had been asking about us.”
The neighbor said this made her feel uncomfortable, since it was in the presence of her teenage son.
Both Fleck and the neighbor said having Bialock’s number would be a good first step, and they would take advantage of his offer to talk privately with him.
Bialock also said that he would instruct the residents to limit their contact with local children, checking with parents before such interaction and not making any comments that might be interpreted as inappropriate.
The house was purchased by Kitsap County Drug Court Administrator Cherie Lusk, who charges just enough rent to cover the mortgage.
Lusk is not involved with the day-to-day operation of the house, saying that to do so would be a “conflict of interest” with her Drug Court position.
Lusk purchased the house in April for $14,000 less than its $208,250 assessed value.