HARRISONBURG — Rockingham County officials rejected a proposal Wednesday to put a rehab facility near Broadway, saying the location is inappropriate for what was pitched.
U-Turn for Christ Shenandoah Valley sought a special-use permit to operate a rehabilitation program for up to 25 nonviolent drug and alcohol addicts at a farm just west of the town limits.
Neighbors vehemently objected and raised doubts about U-Turn’s argument that safety would not be compromised by such a program.
Backers of the facility, a partner organization of Lindale Mennonite Church, describe it as a Christian ministry reserved for people who want to turn their lives around.
About 200 people attended a public hearing at Wednesday’s board meeting, most of them opposed to the organization’s application.
After about two hours of emotional testimony on both sides of the issue, Supervisor Pablo Cuevas made a motion to deny the request.
Cuevas said U-Turn seeks to provide an important service, but it does not belong in a residential area so close to other homeowners, who feared for their safety if the request had gone through.
“I just don’t think this particular location is a good fit,” said Cuevas, whose District 1 includes the land in the request. “Don’t quit looking for the right place to make things happen.”
The board voted 3-0 against the proposal, with Supervisor Mike Breeden absent and Supervisor Fred Eberly abstaining because he is a member of Lindale Mennonite.
U-Turn sought a permit to run the program on 5 acres of a 45-acre farm owned by Jay Fulk at 5738 Cedar Run Trail.
The local group is modeled after U-Turn for Christ, a California-based nonprofit that runs Christianity-centric programs across the country.
As proposed in Rockingham County, participants would live and work on the farm for 60 days under an intensive, regimented program.
Nathaniel Daniel, director of the program and a student at Eastern Mennonite Seminary, said it would not accept convicted felons, sex offenders or people with other mental health problems. Daniel is a graduate of the U-Turn program, which he credits with saving his life.
Under the proposal, residents, all men, would be under 24-hour supervision and follow a strict schedule that includes prayer, Bible study, labor and worship.
“We hope to minister to people who are seeking restoration and reconciliation through our lord and savior Jesus Christ,” Daniel said.
Gail Fink, who lives alone on Cedar Run Trail, said she would fear for her life knowing 25 troubled men were living nearby.
It would destroy her peace of mind, she said, and ruin the home she’s worked so hard for.
“This is no Boy Scout camp we’re putting in here,” she said.
But Richard Yowell, pastor of Cedar Run Church of the Brethren and a probation officer, said U-Turn’s proposal couldn’t be any more of a threat to the community than the people with addictions who already live there.
“The druggies and dealers are already here,” he said, citing recent cases of a drunken driving fatality and other criminal activity. “Tomorrow’s convicts are already today’s neighbors.”
Supervisors concluded that while U-Turn could provide a valuable service to the community, it needs to find a place more suitable for its mission than the farm on Cedar Run Trail.
“U-Turn for Christ is a worthy organization and has a commendable cause,” Supervisor Dee Floyd said. “But I agree with Mr. Cuevas.”
Contact Jeremy Hunt at 574-6273 or firstname.lastname@example.org