Bennock Mill neighbors protesting drug rehabilitation center

By: Ryan Houston Email
By: Ryan Houston Email

News 12 at 6 o'clock / Tuesday, July 30, 2013

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW) -- An upscale drug rehabilitation center is trying to break ground in Augusta.

City officials say the Transitional Center on Bennock Mill Road will be similar to the Betty Ford Clinic.

"I'm not going to say they're not going to be ex-cons, but these people will be rich as hell," said Planning and Development Director George Patty.

"We don't have a place for it in our community," said Commissioner Wayne Guilfoyle.

The site at 959 Bennock Mill Road sits on 178 acres of land. Some think a great spot for an upper echelon rehabilitation center.

The land is for sale and listed for around $200,000. The Old Bluff Plantation is owned by the Boardmans, who are relatives of Augusta Mayor Deke Copenhaver.

"My understanding is that this will not be associated with any federal programs or subsidies or anything like that," Patty said.

"It's for a public hearing. The people have a chance to vote yes or no this coming Monday at 3 o'clock," Guilfoyle said.

A Nebraska couple would also like to open a halfway house on 7th Street. Neighbors we talked to are against it, but District 1 Commissioner Bill Fennoy supports it.

"I'm saying that once they leave the transitional centers, they will have life skills," Fennoy said.

"I don't feel like our commissioner is concerned about our well-being," said Neighborhood Association President Stella Nunnally.

Just the thought of a home for recovering addicts has neighbors protesting. The public hearing is on Monday, Aug. 5, at the Municipal Building in room 803.

The following is an email from Attorneys Hull and Barrett about the possible new transitional center:
"Today’s local news concerns the acquisition of some of Clay Boardman’s beautiful property and large home overlooking the Savannah River in South Augusta for an alleged 'halfway house'. This elegant new facility will be as far from a 'halfway' house as you can imagine. It will be a residential treatment facility for individuals with addictions. It will be a world-class facility with emphasis on professionals (such as physicians) needing treatment. My firm, Hull Barrett, P.C. represents the purchasers and developers of that property.

It will not be a place for criminals or persons with violent backgrounds to be rehabilitated or anything like that. It will be similar to the famous Betty Ford facility on the West Coast. It will be similar to other Professional Health Programs located around the country which have received critical acclaim from the medical community and extremely favorable reactions and support the communities where they have been located.

The facility and its guests will present absolutely no danger to residents of this sparsely settled and isolated area of South Augusta. It will be located on approximately 180 acres of woodlands, carved from a 2,000-acre wooded site, near the old Continental Can, now International Paper, and will utilize the beautiful residential home and cottages built there many years ago.

The developers hope to make this a model or prototype facility to be followed in other areas of the country. The facility will have a dedicated, highly trained and professional staff. An affiliation with local GRU physicians also is part of the plan.

I believe this facility will bring nothing but praise to Augusta and considerable favorable attention on the national level. This is a facility for Augustans to support and I believe they will do so without reservation when they learn more about it.

Please call me if you have any questions. The characterization of the facility as a halfway house is unfortunate because that is not at all accurate and conjures up images far removed from reality. The folks offering that characterization have not had the opportunity to explore the plans and concept. A public hearing for that purpose will be held at the conclusion of the 3:30p.m. Planning Commission meeting, Room 803 of the Municipal Building on August 5, 2013. We invite everyone to attend. They will be impressed with what they learn."

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