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Summit County Council Vote Upholds New Location For Clubhouse

The Summit County Council on Wednesday voted unanimously to turn down an appeal against placing a mental-wellness program in a residence along Highland Drive.

The discussion about the facility, called The Clubhouse, ranged from reviewing traffic or noise impacts, to debate about whether the patrons of the facility raise safety concerns in the Highland Estates neighborhood.

The Snyderville Planning Commission granted a Conditional Use Permit for The Clubhouse, a program for adults struggling with mental illness which helps them to develop employment, educational and wellness skills.

The approval was appealed by the Highland Estates Homeowners Association.

Their attorney, John Richards, said there are concerns about a use bringing non-residential and non-traditional traffic to the neighborhood, and being a conspicuous change to a commercial use.

“We feel that adds an element of uncertainty to who’s in the neighborhood, who is wandering throughout the other streets in the neighborhood.   And of course that relates more specifically to increased concern of potential or other—of crime and other things like that, that just are unforeseen, that we don’t know who the people are.   And they’re not the traditional guests, let’s say a traditional owner or resident of a home.   So the increased traffic, and the people that come along with that traffic is a concern.”

The attorney said while they have a concern that is somewhat speculative, the county needs to show that they have safeguards and responses to any negative episodes involving the patrons at the Clubhouse.        

“This is a concentrated, this is a higher density, a higher number of people that are experiencing these challenges.  And my concern for the health and welfare and safety of not only them, but the clients that I represent, is whether or not there are safeguards in place in the form of professional staff, doctors, law enforcement.   Are those individuals or professionals available to assist if there’s an incident in the home, on the property, or that might affect the surrounding neighbors, because again of a higher concentration of individuals who are struggling and dealing with varying degrees of mental health issues.”

Richards said another issue, brought to his attention, is that a school bus stop is right across the street from the location.       

“I would have the Council consider the impact of anybody that’s got certainly a medical challenge, with children in the near proximity of a school-bus zone.   And that’s been brought to my attention today.”

Responding for the Snyderville Commisison, deputy county attorney Jamie Brackin said in that zone, a Conditional Use Permit can be granted for a “personal-improvement service.”

She added that conditions in the Planning Commission approval, and county staff, addressed items such as parking,  water, septic-tank use on the parcel and traffic.

Council Members noted they had received several comments from critical neighbors.    Citing one comment, Council Member Kim Carson threw this question at Clubhouse Director Amber McKay.      

“Do you feel these individuals with mental illness are criminals? (McKay) No.  Absolutely not.   And I think, just to quell any fears that anyone might have, the members that come to The Clubhouse are individuals who are looking to re-integrate back into the community, which is why it’s such a great idea to be in a home in a neighborhood, because that’s re-integration.  So the members come and they’re referred by a mental-health provider.  They have to be deemed as safe.  And they have to be working towards goals of recovery.”

MacKay said that they currently have 13 patrons, and their maximum would be 25.    She said they would not receive treatment at the house, or stay overnight.  

She said the patrons aren’t under the influence of drugs or alcohol.    They will run the facility, learn skills through hands-on experience and will work on renovating and beautifying the location.

Council Member Roger Armstrong said he’s not out to cast guilt or blame on the critics.   But he said he was troubled, quoting some of the comments he’s received.        

“And when I look at comments that—“We strongly disapprove of the possibility that the Summit County Clubhouse would be housed in our residential area--It’s not a place for such a facility.-- Would you like this facility next to your residence.-- We don’t believe that a service for adults with mental-health diagnoses belong in our neighborhood, close to our home.--We’ve always felt safe—I found out that a mental-illness facility is moving in next door.   Now we have mentally-ill strangers getting off the bus in front of our house.—Summit County Council is proposing to insert a rehab facility in what is originally zoned as residential.”

Armstrong said what they’re combating is a stigma, which may keep people with mental issues from seeking help.

Kim Carson said those who are struggling are members of this community.        

“Do you guarantee that nobody will have some type of psychotic episode?   No, but you also can’t guarantee that your neighbor won’t have a psychotic episode.  And you do have professionals that will be on hand.”

Summit County Council Member Kim Carson.

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