Not in my backyard: Bloomington residents rally to fight recovery home

Neighborhood gathering at Bloomington Elementary School to discuss a pending renovation of a home on Sugar Leo Road for purposes of making it a residential drug and alcohol recovery home. St. George, Utah, August 1, 2013 | Photo by Michael Flynn, St. George News

ST. GEORGE – On Thursday, a group of residents from the St. George suburb of Bloomington gathered at Bloomington Elementary to listen to a series of presentations about how to keep a planned residential drug and alcohol treatment home out of their neighborhood.

Mike Jorgensen before the home he is renovating on Sugar Leo road in Bloomington. His plan is to turn the estate into a residential drug and alcohol recovery home. St. George, Utah, July 23, 2013 | Photo by Michael Flynn, St. George News
Mike Jorgensen before the home he is renovating on Sugar Leo road in Bloomington. His plan is to turn the estate into a residential drug and alcohol recovery home. St. George, Utah, July 23, 2013 | Photo by Michael Flynn, St. George News

Over 150 residents sat in the gymnasium of the school as local residents Warren Church, Patrick Abernathy, and others spoke about what impact they believed the recovery home would have on the community, and laid out a plan to put pressure on city officials to refuse zoning permits for the facility.

The plans for the recovery home involve renovating a large estate on Sugar Leo Road. This will be the second such facility owned and managed by Steps Recovery in the state of Utah; the other is situated in a residential neighborhood in Payson.

In the meeting, many of the Bloomington residents, both audience-members as well as presenters, had perceptions of the planned recovery home, which in many ways did not correlate with what the developers of the facility have described to Saint George News and to city officials.

“It’s been proven in many several incidents, when you have drug people there, the dealers go with the drug people,” resident Bob Cheek said. “I don’t care if they are in a center or not, because they have the freedom to come and go.”

Mike Jorgensen, one of the partners behind the planned recovery center, said it isn’t true that residents will be free to come and go as they please. Jorgensen also asked what is meant by terms like “drug people.”

Those people are your neighbors, they’re your kids, they are in your churches,” he said. “The people you have to worry about are the ones who aren’t in recovery and not under 24/7 supervision,” he said.

Jorgensen also said he rejects the idea that the planned recovery home will increase crime. The facility, as it is planned, will involve around-the-clock supervision, and residents will be subject to frequent drug testing to ensure they are clean and sober while living in the treatment home.

“They are not going to be allowed to leave the campus without supervision,” Jorgensen said.

The planned recovery home will not be a lock-down facility, however. If residents wish to end treatment, they are free to leave; however, they will not be allowed to simply walk out the door. Jorgensen said that when residents choose to leave, they are generally picked up by family, or else the facility will arrange transportation for them.

“They aren’t going to just walk out the door and wander the streets looking for people to rob,” said Jorgensen, “that’s ridiculous.”

Another common misconception at the meeting was that some patients at the planned recovery home will be there involuntarily. 

“Some of their customers may be court-ordered,” Patrick Abernathy told the audience during the presentation, “meaning they have willfully broken the law and are being placed in this facility in lieu of prison.”

However, City Councilman Jon Pike said that, although there has not yet been a formal application to the city, his understanding of the plans for the recovery home is that there will not be any court-ordered patients. Pike said that the legality of such a residential facility opening in the Bloomington neighborhood is largely a question of what is perceived and of what is real.

Pike said that some of the very real concerns that the council will be looking at are whether the recovery home will be in compliance with zoning regulations, and concerns such as what sort of impact it will have on traffic patterns. “They are taking a house in an all-residential neighborhood,” he said. How much traffic –  in terms of food, laundry, and housekeeping services – will be generated by having up to 24 people living in a single residence is a concern, Pike said.

There are many questions and many contradictory perceptions about the impact that a large recovery home will have upon the Bloomington community. Many audience members cited dropping property value as their primary worry. While it’s true that drug and alcohol recovery facilities do tend to lower property values in residential areas, the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Fair Housing Act stipulate that municipalities cannot reject applications for this reason. 

Nobody at Thursday’s meeting, when asked, denied that a growing drug-addiction problem exists in Southern Utah. Warren Church, one of the organizers of the meeting, agreed that there probably is a need for more treatment facilities in Southern Utah; however, he said that he doesn’t think they should be in residential neighborhoods.

Undergoing recovery in a familiar setting can be tremendously helpful for patients, Jorgensen said. And he said he rejects the notion that recovering addicts are inherently criminals and should not be allowed to undergo recovery in a comfortable residential treatment facility. Jorgensen said he understands why people might not want to live near a recovery home. “Nobody wants to live near a school,” said Jorgensen, “nobody wants to live near a church, nobody wants to live near a fire-station, but these buildings provide needed services to communities.”

Email: mflynn@stgnews.com
Twitter: @mflynnSTGN

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2013, all rights reserved.

NIMBY
A group of residents from the St. George suburb of Bloomington gathered at Bloomington Elementary to listen to a series of presentations about how to keep a planned residential drug and alcohol treatment home out of their neighborhood.

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29 Comments

  • Ann Cox August 2, 2013 at 6:11 pm

    “Nobody wants to live near a school, nobody wants to live near a church, nobody wants to live near a fire-station, but these buildings provide needed services to communities.” Interesting truth.
    Would it be safe to say that nobody wants something or someone unfamiliar around them, but everybody wants help to be available to their loved one with a substance abuse or mental illness issue. Sadly, these two often go hand in hand. If you don’t have someone in your immediate family who needs help, I’ll bet your extended family or your neighbor does. Allow them a way to get help.
    From my observations, these residential treatment homes have wonderful individual recovery programs and trained counselors and staff to guide the residents in gaining new tools and commitment to be healthy again.
    I believe it is part of stopping the cycle of self-destruction. Our jails don’t usually have trained therapists or intense programs like this to help a person who wants to make a life change. Let’s stop the denial that this doesn’t affect us, and stop the stigma that often prevents an individual from seeking help.
    If not there, then where? Be part of the solution.

    • David October 29, 2013 at 2:29 pm

      Fact, Jorgensen was offered money to buy the house for a profit, he declined. The neighbors found 6 other locations not in subdivisions but suitable, he declined and said talk to my lawyer. 90 percent of the community is against it, he doesn’t care. He also told a group of neighbors he wouldn’t want it in his neighborhood. He just moved to st. George, we all noticed he didn’t buy next door where there was a home for sale. He get 10k per drug user per month, dont try to tell me its not about the money. This is NOT a religious issue. Fact, crime does go up near these centers. Fact property values do go down near these places. Fact, there are plenty of places not in subdivisions where they can be placed. Let’s face it, you can buy more land and sq ft in a subdivision zoned residential than you can in any other type of zoned area. It’s about the money and he does not care about people, otherwise he would change locations. Hes a selfish narcisist, and that is also a fact.

  • Maggie August 2, 2013 at 6:59 pm

    What a ridiculous set of comments from ridiculously uneducated, and obviously, extremely judgemental individuals. Sometimes it sickens me that I grew up in this kind of community. Kudos to those who want to help, and shame on these individuals who go to church everyday and take NOTHING from the teachings of Christ. I am sad for your children who will only learn to be as conditionally caring as you are. Such selfishness!!

    • JaDe August 2, 2013 at 11:14 pm

      You go gurl!! Amen to that, so many fake … in this town, makes me sick!!
      Ed. ellipsis.

  • Aric Cramer August 2, 2013 at 7:47 pm

    Their job is to create the addicts, not treat them. They know their jobs. We should respect them.

  • Wil August 2, 2013 at 7:54 pm

    What a bunch of Christlike individuals.. Warren what were those craigslist, myspace and facebook ads you wrote back in 2007?? If you cant remember I have them saved….(phone number removed by editor) right ? what was the context of those ads you pest control hero ? What were you looking to do with other guys wives ? Come clean or I will post it. FAKE .

    • A concerned Resident May 10, 2014 at 9:58 pm

      Wil, can you please reach out to me regarding your comment? I have critical information regarding your post about Mr. Church. Thank you.

  • Robert Wilkes August 2, 2013 at 8:16 pm

    The city council should be ashamed of themselves. Treatment facilities do not belong in family residential neighborhoods. This is a classic example of our city caving into revenue over common sense. The reality is that treatment of any addiction by necessity involves the addicted. These are ill people that need help but the truth is that treatment of the addicted is a commercial enterprise that does not belong on a residential street. I support cancer treatment but I wouldn’t want it on my street either. Maybe I will open a convince store in my basement and a gas station in my side yard. Would that be ok Mister Pike?

    • Dickey August 2, 2013 at 11:11 pm

      So where do they belong? This is not a commercial building being built like a convenience store. If you sheeples were so Christ-like, you’d support this sort of help in your neighborhoods where NOT everybody goes to your church on the corner!!!

    • Justin Aiken August 3, 2013 at 11:25 am

      As a Bloomington resident, I’d love it if you opened a convince store Robert! Walmart’s inconvintly far away. :p

      But I’m not the least bit worried about a residential rehab center.

  • pamela August 2, 2013 at 9:06 pm

    It sounds like Eli and others need to grow up!

  • Tyler August 2, 2013 at 11:03 pm

    Bloomington, you need to quit acting like your sh*& doesn’t stink and accept that your little neck of the city is not exempt from having such a facility – infact there should be these types of facitities in all corners of this high drug-ridden city.

  • ladybugavenger August 2, 2013 at 11:30 pm

    WAKE UP!!! There is already drugs and drug dealers in your neighborhood. There aren’t going to all of a sudden be in your neighborhood. They are already there.

  • Cassie August 3, 2013 at 4:49 am

    OMG people in this town are judgmental hypocrites. First of all, people in Bloomington freaked out because they had to let Wal Mart into their perfect little area and didn’t want the ‘trashy people’ that shop their in their neighborhoods. Now they are throwing a fit because they are finally trying to open up a place that can actually help us (yes i am one of them) recovering addicts. OPEN YOUR EYE’S PEOPLE!! There is a HUGE drug problem in Washington County, and everyone in this town is in denial that we have a drug problem. Well I have news for you all, the problem is real and it is here. It is a horrible problem and there is not enough places here to help us. Just because there would be recovering drug addicts in your beloved little ‘perfect’ neighborhoods doesn’t mean there is going to be a huge crime spike there. You all need to grow up and research this before you all go blabbing your mouths about something you have no idea about. People like me who are willing and seek help for our addictions don’t want to bother anyone because all we are focusing on is our recovery. So get off your high horses and slap yourself into the reality of life. I can’t believe you people

  • pamela August 3, 2013 at 8:12 am

    The only ones that need to wake up are the ones that believe that Mike Jorgensen and those like him want to help those who have an addiction s problem. Hello, the only thing that they are interested in is increasing their pocket books. He paid over $600,000 cash for the place. Where did he get that kind of cash? From taking advantage of people who need help. This unfortunately is a money making business more than anything. Therefore it doesn’t belong in a neighborhood! No one objects to helping these people. We just don’t want a business that makes a huge profit and creates more traffic etc. In a residential neighborhood. People are missing the point! There are plenty of nice wonderful places throughout Washington County to have such a facility.

  • Shortcake August 3, 2013 at 9:20 am

    The one thing about the area – talking from both sides of their mouth. My brother could’ve used a “home” facility like this. Somewhere where they feel as if THEY are protected. The feeling is living on a busy street in a commercial building they are one of the lab rats not someone the therapists care about.

    Good grief Bloomington- it’s a large estate. You probably won’t even see these struggling people from your own door. Pathetic.

  • Breona August 3, 2013 at 11:01 am

    This right here shows how ignorant and judgemental people in our mostly LDS community are. There’s people that will really benefit from this recovery house and they have just as much right to be in that neighborhood as anybody else. There’s going to be “drug people” and the crime that follows no matter what. We need to have places like this recovery house for those that want to get help. I’m an addict in recovery myself and I find it extremely hurtful that those who don’t understand people like me wouldn’t even want me getting help in the neighborhood. I could be your daughter or someone in your ward and just because I had a drug problem you wouldn’t want me getting help near your house? What happen to love thy neighbor and help one another? The people against this recovery house have valid concerns but they are not enough to stop something that can benefit so many families.

  • Dallas August 3, 2013 at 11:02 am

    There are only a few ridiculous comments in the article by obviously ignorant people, I don’t think it has anything to do with the predominant religion as much as the dumb people. There are dumb people that are in every religion or lack of religion. I am also a recovering addict and have spent time in jail, state prison, and a rehab center similar to this one. Its not that “Bloomington people” are on a high horse, its that they don’t want a rehab next to their homes bringing their property value down. The high horse Bloomington people moved to Stone Cliff years ago. The message is not that they are unaware of the addiction problem because I know several who attended the meeting have either dealt with drug addiction themselves or have children who have. How would you like to sell your home and tell the potential buyers “by the way, that house right there is a rehab center”, not that its bad to support recovery but it looks bad to ignorant people, which in fact brings down the value of your home.

    • Kimberly August 3, 2013 at 12:20 pm

      Dallas, I appreciate your educated response.
      This type of facility is usually fought by those loving in the neighborhoods around the area. This has nothing to do with whether the people living in those neighborhoods are LDS or not or whether they’ve hard in their lives to be able to love in such a beautiful place as Bloomington. The concerns that have been brought are are valid and these same concerns are brought up in every meeting across the nation when such a facility is being discussed.
      It seems as those who make comment where they feel those in the area are “judgmental,” not “Christ-like,” or “uneducated” say such things now but I dare bet they would fight it if it were going in their neighborhood.
      I did not grow up in Bloomington, now Utah for that matter, but have found those in the Bloomington area to have a deep care for those in their neighborhood and community. These people have just as much right to their concerns as those who have been vocal and pointing their fingers in scorn to their opinions. Let them voice their own concerns. After all, it’s THEIR neighborhood and THEIR community being effected by this facility, not yours.

  • Put them here August 3, 2013 at 11:53 am

    Would’nt it be better to put them say out by the new family dollar warehouse. In an industrial area. Where they are not around neighborhoods with children or million dollar houses. I understand the need for the center but lets not make it appealing to live there. Stick em in the desert at the end of the road before AZ there is nothing out there and wont affect property values. Come on people Sugar Leo is a nice neighborhood and I am sure they can find cheaper property elsewhere away from civilization. Plus build in an out of the way site no worries about upsetting residents. Then they can plan what to build around it if that property gets developed more in the future. There will be runaways and problems no matter how patrolled and controlled they say it will be. Let them run into the AZ strip and not near neighborhoods.

  • Tara August 3, 2013 at 4:52 pm

    It is crazy that people are pointing fingers at the LDS in the area. I’m not LDS and I sure don’t want the home in my neighborhood. This has nothing to do with the church! It has to do with concerned parents and concerned home owners. Have you never seen or heard of how dangerous drug addicts are on or coming off of drugs? It seems uneducated to me to think that they are not dangerous!
    Bloomington residence come in a wide variety of religious beliefs And we All have a right to protect our children And neighborhood. It seems very judge mental for you to point your finger at the LDS.

  • Ron August 3, 2013 at 6:04 pm

    I don’t get it. Why does this have to be in the middle of a lovely residential area? These folks are not going to be chatting with the neighbors, borrowing a cup of sugar, playing with the neighborhood kids. They’re going to be in treatment. And why are some suggesting that locating outside a residential area means some sort of industrial warehouse? For $600,000+, I would think you could build a beautiful facility with landscaping and gardens just about anywhere. I don’t think a lack of compassion is the issue. We don’t have to choose between putting a treatment center on Sugar Leo or putting these people out on the street. There is still a lot of open space in St. George.

  • Steve O. August 3, 2013 at 6:11 pm

    I can see both sides having valid arguments. I am sure that the residents of Bloomington realize that there is a drug problem in our community. I doubt that anyone in the community is against treatment facilities. However, I imagine that residents of Bloomington chose that area because they like the quiet streets and large property. If they have to disclose to potential buyers that there is a treatment center down the street they could lose sales, because of ignorance (this word is being thrown out so I will use it too). Why not build it in an up and coming neighborhood where people can choose to purchase a home near the center. This way people can buy there knowing full well that there is a facility in the area. I am guessing that the developers would have issue with this and the homes wouldn’t sell as well.

  • Hoagan Powell August 4, 2013 at 1:04 am

    I think there is a big opportunity for good to come out of this situation; but I would to first like to make my position clear on the subject. I am a big believer in the Americans With Disabilities Act. It helped get my oldest son though college and it protects my wife’s use of a service assistance dog; however, I do not believe the intent of the law was to allow crafty business people to circumvent neighborhood deed restrictions and local zoning laws. Where is the protection of the rights of property owners who bought, not just in Bloomington, but in any neighborhood in America, expecting these local ordinances to protect their interests? I oppose this breach of the rights of property owners and the location of this facility in any neighborhood that has existing restrictions and does not actively solicit it being there. Now for the opportunity. I am very much in favor of the treatment of addiction, which I believe to be a disease. I speak from personal experience in dealing with this disease that has ravaged my family for generations. The good news is…I have seen treatment work. Everyone I heard speak at the meeting in Bloomington was in favor of treatment and the need for more treatment facilities in Southern Utah, as well as the protection of property owner’s rights. It seems to me we have a real opportunity here to use this emotional momentum that is growing over this situation, and to parlay this into a movement to accomplish both objectives: 1)Protect the rights of property owners 2)Start a community effort to increase the number of treatment facilities and to determine location alternatives that are viable and potentially profitable, but do not infringe on existing deed and zoning laws. Our local municipalities could explore economic incentives for new treatment facilities to open here, in areas zoned for such businesses; and let’s not forget…treatment centers are businesses, existing to both serve and to make a profit, which I totally agree with. With an effort like this supported by the community, I believe the community support would be good for the treatment center owner’s bottom line, which is good for the community as well. I see this as a chance to have a winning situation for everyone.

  • Frankye August 5, 2013 at 10:51 am

    I find it interesting that the City is considering re-zoning for a facility that will house 24+ people when there are strict ordinances in place that will not allow more than 3 unrelated people to occupy a home in a single family residence. Why the rule changes? I guess those with the gold do make the rules….

  • Toshi August 27, 2013 at 10:41 pm

    I attended Steps Recovery in Payson Utah. The facility there is in a suburban neighborhood, and when we did service projects or attended meetings outside the facility we were under very strict observation, as well as required to maintain a 15-minute gap between our arrival and the beginning of a meeting to ensure out attendance didn’t cause any issue for anyone. Mike (the owner) is EXTREMELY conscientious of the potential complications a facility could cause for close members in of a community, and his type-A personality does not rest until he has preemptively patched every possible leak in a canoe before he puts it the water. I celebrated three years yesterday- August 26, 2013- and in 2010 when I was inpatient the facility was still quite new, but as a resident I never experienced anything but support and respect from those we encountered at 12-meetings, church services, service projects, etc. I am very proud today to be affiliated with the Steps name; when I wear my hoodie with their logo on it, and an old-timer asks me if I’m “one of them steps kids” I also smile and answer in the affirmative with a touch of nostalgia and a boatload of pride. Thank you Steps, Thank you Mike, and St. George: y’all would be lucky to see a Steps RC in your backyard!!!!!!!!!!! (I daresay there would never be a shortage of clients… my heroin addiction’s roots are in sunny St. George itself!)

  • Sabrina September 3, 2013 at 12:25 pm

    I live in Bloomington and no I don’t want the facility in my neighborhood. I don’t think they belong in neighborhoods rather Bloomington or not I just don’t agree with it. Would you want a facility like this next to you? Were your kids play and have to walk past it every day to go to school. I am sure many of the recovering addicts are good people just getting the help they need, but it just takes 1 bad to cause problems that we DO NOT want in our neighborhood. And by the way I am not LDS and I love my neighbor hood all the LDS and Non LDS neighbors have been great to us since we moved in.

  • Bob Vosper October 14, 2013 at 12:21 pm

    I think it is really such a sad state of affairs when so many church going members of the community adjacent to this residential treatment facility do not walk what they say amen to on Sunday. This is a problem within our communities that has already rooted in some of the surrounding homes. This is a helping hand to those in need. I am a neighbor of the facility and welcome them.

  • Mary February 13, 2016 at 10:13 pm

    I am the parent of a drug addict who finally after fifteen years of torture for her family, chose to get clean. I would never want a rehab house in my neighborhood because as any parent of an addict knows, they are lying, thieving, self indulgent, filthy, selfish dredges to society and they do not deserve to live among children and normal members of society in a residential neighborhood until they clean-up in a facility that belongs in a business district. I love my child deeply, but I do not want innocent people to go through the hell of living next to a pack of addicts.

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