Drug center to offer details

Damascus House director to meet foes of expansion

Zoning change at issue

Brooklyn Park

January 10, 2001|By Rona Kobell | Rona Kobell,SUN STAFF

Officials from Damascus House, a Brooklyn Park substance abuse treatment center that incensed neighbors with its proposed expansion, will attend a community meeting next month to clarify their plan.

Charles Mooneyhan, the center's director, said yesterday that he will bring information about the project, along with an architect and a zoning expert, to the meeting.

He said he was surprised at the protest but acknowledged, "We know we can't please everyone in the community."

The 17-bed treatment center in the 4200 block of Ritchie Highway wants to buy a property on nearby Edison Street and renovate a house there into a 15-bed facility. The plans also call for building two, four-bedroom transitional homes on the site.

Opposition from neighbors derailed the plan last week. At the request of Damascus House, the county postponed indefinitely a zoning hearing scheduled for Thursday of last week.

A zoning change is necessary because the house on the Edison lot is split between residential and commercial zoning. Damascus House was seeking a change to commercial zoning because that would require a lesser variance in lot size than would be required under residential zoning.

Mooneyhan had planned to attend Monday's meeting of the Brooklyn Heights Improvement Association, but canceled because of inclement weather.

At the meeting, Sandra Bowen, a Brooklyn Park resident who galvanized the neighbors into action last month after seeing signs about the proposed zoning change, said neighbors wanted to see site plans, the contract to purchase the home and copies of the grants that will fund the purchase.

"These are definitely some of the questions that we want answered, " Bowen said.

Mooneyhan learned about the scope of the neighbors' displeasure late last month when Bowen organized a meeting at which 60 residents said they opposed - after not being told about - the expansion plan. Though Mooneyhan presented the expansion plan to the association in May, many of those who live closest to the property said they didn't attend meetings regularly and hadn't seen the item in their newsletter.

Mooneyhan said yesterday that Damascus House won't purchase the Edison lot until it addresses the association. The meeting is set for 7 p.m. Feb. 12.

"I understand their fear," Mooneyhan said of his neighbors' reaction to the expansion, "but there's no basis for it."

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