County planning commission approves permit for Stonewater with a list of conditions

Published 8:30 am Wednesday, March 30, 2022

After months of tabled discussions and plans, the Planning Commission has approved a conditional use permit for a portion of Stonewater Adolescent Recovery Center’s expansion plans. 

Stonewater will be able to build 16 beds, rather than their original 48 beds, a cafeteria and a recreation facility, however, commissioners have put in place additional requirements in order for Stonewater to begin breaking ground.

Stonewater has faced a long, stasis period after discussion of expansion was tabled in February due to concerns from neighbors and neighbors on safety concerns. Commissioners advised Stonewater to produce a plan and rendering for a fence for the next public discussion.

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“What we’ve presented is a fence that runs around the entirety of our property,” said Bryan Fikes during Tuesday evening’s public hearing. “It’s an 8-foot fence with a screen covering and it is lined with a hedge of Elaeagnus to dress up the aesthetic of it.”

After February’s meeting, Fikes reportedly talked with Lafayette County Sheriff Joey East about improving security and reducing the number of elopements from the center. Fikes and East discussed introducing a mass text notification system to the community around Stonewater so they would be notified in event of a patient’s elopement.

“This is one of the things we discussed with the sheriff and I think, he too, was in big favor of the idea and thought it would have a big impact and was encouraged to hear we were presenting a plan to [commissioners],” said Fikes. “We want to protect residents as they leave our property and to do that is to make neighbors aware that they are walking and moving about in our community.”

In continuation from the last public hearing, Fikes was able to report the continuing decrease in elopements due to better teamwork with the local authorities and more hands-on effort from Stonewater staff.

“[East] was able to communicate some real encouragement that he’s experienced and his team’s experienced during our last, most recent elopements,” he said. “He said, ‘It’s obvious that you guys are more involved’ and those elopements were located by our team and not his.”

Stonewater would also like to introduce a security recovery team to continue reducing the number of elopements and scheduled meetings with Oxford and Lafayette County middle and high schools to educate teenagers on drugs and substance abuse prevention.

Although Stonewater presented improvements and plans, the commissioners need stipulations in place to ensure that Stonewater has and will continue to improve before allowing an expansion.

Commissioners requested that Stonewater implement their mass text notification system for all community members who would like to join, Stonewater’s security recovery team, the educational sessions at local school districts and a scholarship for a Lafayette County resident once an additional bed is open. 

All of these conditions must be in place before Stonewater receives a site plan approval and can begin building its 8-foot fence and three additional facilities. Once a site plan is approved, Stonewater can begin building the 8-foot fence with a security gate. 

If approved by the Lafayette County Board of Supervisors, these conditions will run with the Stonewater property and Stonewater will be subject to sanctions if those conditions are not upheld.

However, these conditions could not address the issue of County Road 362. Stonewater’s expansion would compromise traveling on the roadway.

“That is a very, very small road and you can barely get two people side by side to cross it with the size of trucks coming down it,” said Ben Nesbitt, a neighbor of Stonewater. “If we increase the size of the Stonewater facility, it will increase the personnel load and that road isn’t able to hold what it’s got.”

Director of Development Services Joel Hollowell stated that the county does not own the right of way for County 362 which would prevent them from executing any outright improvements.

“The county does not actually own any right-of-way to expand without getting the right-of-way easements,” said Joel Hollowell, County Director of Development Services.

Despite any lack of immediate action the county could make, the planning commission approved a recommendation to the Board of Supervisors to look at ways of improving CR 362.

“We can ask the supervisors to review what they can to improve the road,” said Commissioner Ray Garrett. “ Without the landowners’ consent or eminent domain, the board of supervisors cannot widen that road.”

Stonewater Adolescent Recovery Center will go before the Lafayette County Board of Supervisors on Monday, Apr. 18 at 9 a.m. in the supervisors boardroom located on the second floor of the Chancery Court building.