Zoning Board to consider variance on Monastery property

May 15, 2013

Frank Lewis

PDT Staff Writer

The Portsmouth City Zoning Board of Appeals will meet Tuesday at 2 p.m. in the Engineering Department located in the Portsmouth City Building to discuss a request for variance on property at 2311 Stockham Lane, by Compass Community Health.

The purpose of the variance is to allow Compass Community Health to operate a residential treatment center providing onsite health care to women with at-risk pregnancies and other issues, mainly addiction.

Tuesday evening, Compass held a public forum in which citizens could voice their opinions or concerns about the facility being located in a residential area of the city.

“One of the things that we were told was that most people do not have a public forum prior to a Zoning Board meeting. They just go direct to the Zoning Board and they hope to argue it out there,” Compass Community Health President and CEO, Ed Hughes, said. “We wanted the community to understand, and if we are able to put that program there, we want to be a very good neighbor, as we are in other parts of the community. You don’t start off as a good neighbor by trying to pull a fast one on people. You want to let them know exactly where you stand, where you disagree and I think that was accomplished last (Tuesday) night.”

Hughes said there were a variety of opinions expressed at that meeting.

“It had a number of people that were kind of neutral there to hear the story. And then we had a group of people that were very vocally opposed,” Hughes said. “We presented what the program would be, just trying to present the facts. We weren’t trying to change anyone’s mind or minimize the concern somebody might have.”

Hughes said he believes there are misconceptions, not about the program, but about drug-addicted people.

“When we heard something that we knew was misinformation, we tried to provide a correction for that,” Hughes said.”We were trying to help people understand how a health care center for pregnant women is not only needed, but is also different than anything that exists in the community and tried to allay any concerns people had about safety, or traffic, or security. I think we did that. It’s just a matter, I think, that some people probably already had their mind made up.”

He said he expects a replay of the Tuesday meeting at the Zoning Board meeting.

“It is my understanding that we will go before the Board with our application, and we will say a few words in terms of what it is again we’re trying to do,” Hughes said. “And then they will entertain comments from the community, and I’m sure there will be folks there that may be speaking as opposed, and those who are in favor.”

The property being considered is the former Saint Joseph Adoration Monastery, which had been owned by Fred Bennett, who passed away on April 4. Hughes says Compass has an agreement with the Catholic Diocese of Columbus, but it’s contingent upon their being able to get a variance to the zoning.

Frank Lewis may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 252, or at flewis@civitasmedia.com. For breaking news, follow Frank on Twitter @FrankLewisPDT.