ReVIDA Recovery was denied a business license by the Morristown Board of Zoning Appeals Tuesday night, which may mean hundreds of patients will have to be relocated to Newport until a suitable location is found.
“Three hundred and four people in Morristown will be without treatment,” Ed Ohlingher, COO of ReVIDA Recovery Centers, said after the zoning appeals vote.
The Board of Zoning Appeals voted 6-1 to deny the center the business license. Commissioner Bob Garrett voted for approval.
The recovery center, which treats opioid users, had recently located into an office on Bowman Street when its old location was heavily damaged by fire. The recovery center got in touch with the city of Morristown to acquire a business license and it was discovered the center was not compliant with the city’s ordinance, which states that a suboxone distributor cannot be located within 1,000 feet of a church, school, hospital or residential area. City planners said the center falls within 1,000 feet of two churches and two residentially zoned plots.
“We cannot recommend approval at this time,” said Lori Matthews, senior planner for the city.
But debate erupted after Matthews was called to the podium to explain the laws more clearly. She read the ordinance concerning how suboxone could not be “distributed” within certain areas.
“We don’t distribute,” Ohlinger said.
“You write prescriptions,” Matthews replied.
“But, we don’t distribute,” Ohlinger said.
Rick Armstrong, Realtor for ReVIDA, told commissioners that no drugs or medication are kept on the premises it is only prescribed.
“This clinic is not a suboxone clinic,” Armstrong said.
He said in reality it is more along the lines of a “counseling clinic.”
City planners said earlier during a work session that the old clinic located on West Andrew Johnson Highway had been noncompliant as well.
“How did they get in Crescent Center?” Mayor Gary Chesney asked.
Matthews said she had went back several years and found no instance of ReVIDA applying for a business license at the old location.
“They went in illegally at the location,” she said.
Steve Neilson, community development director, reiterated the planning department’s opposition.
“They may have the best intentions...” he said. “But, they don’t meet the criteria.”
Neilson said the city planning office would assist ReVIDA in trying to find a new location, but they would have to cease regular operations until they get to a location that is compliant.
Lee Dillworth, CEO of ReVIDA, sent a statement Wednesday morning.
“We believe this is a misinterpretation of the zoning code,” Dillworth said. “We are committed to our patients in the Hamblen County area and the Morristown community. We plan to meet with city leaders and hope to resolve this issue.”
The Morristown Regional Planning Commission approved 7-0 allowing craft beer enterprises in four sections of the city: the intermediate business district, the central business district, the tourist accommodation district and the planned commercial district.
The Morristown City Council approved an amendment on July 19 allowing craft beer vendors to be able to locate to the city.
“A number of people have expressed interest in opening one of these,” Nielsen told planners.
The City Council changed the law a year and a half ago to allow microbreweries into the downtown area and other parts of the city. The craft beer enterprises would be able to sell other beers that they did not brew themselves. Examples of these craft beer enterprises include Casual Pint in Knoxville and Barley Waters in Johnson City.
The new amendment also defines craft beer and defines that any of these locations would also have to have sitting for at least 40 people.
“We don’t want hole in the wall places,” Neilson said.