Zoning change for drug rehab center stalls



LOCK HAVEN — The Clinton County commissioners have “no desire” to schedule a public hearing on a zoning change to allow a drug treatment center at the historic Woolrich lodge in Gallagher Township.

Commissioners Pete Smeltz, Jeff Snyder and Paul Conklin declined at their meeting Thursday to make a motion to conduct a public hearing on the request by Robert C. Wise II to allow a special exception to the Woodland Conservation District zone to facilitate the rehabilitation center.

The opportunity to make a motion for the hearing came after the county Planning Commission voted unanimously Tuesday night to recommend to the commissioners that an exception not be allowed.

The basis for that recommendation was that it would set an unwanted precedent for Woodland Conservation Districts in the county and perhaps even beyond.

“We are not conducting a hearing or considering any evidence today,” said Commissioner Pete Smeltz on Thursday. “Today we decide on whether we want to move to a public hearing to consider this amendment. Eighty-four guests and the Planning Commission gathered Tuesday night to discuss this issue.”

Commissioners Jeff Snyder and Paul Conklin declined to make a motion for the haring, siting the Planning Commission’s recommendation.

Smeltz, who is chairman, said based on the commission’s recommendation and the fact that all seven townships covered under the zoning ordinance – Grugan, Colebrook, West Keating, East Keating, Noyes, Logan and Gallagher townships – oppose the exception, he has “”no desire to move a motion to conduct that hearing.”

The townships want the Woodlands Conservation District and its restrictions left intact.

The Planning Commission agreed.

“The Planning Commission board (members) are put together by the county. They are an all-volunteer board and they are very serious about what they do. A lot of effort goes into putting these recommendations together for us to consider these options. To go against their recommendation, I feel, would be undermining their work. They go a great job,” Conklin said.

Wise was clearly disappointed by the lack of action by the commissioners.

“I would recommend you contact our Planning Office,” Smeltz told Wise.

It is Wise’s second attempt to open a residential drug and alcohol treatment center, a life’s goal as he has lost a son and brother to drug overdoses.

The Woolrich Inc. lodge is up for sale as the company and/or its shareholders look to divest

The mountain lodge at 169 Brayton Lodge Lane consists of a huge building and 39 acres.

Smeltz, along with the Planning Commission, stressed that any change would also apply to all Woodland Conservation Districts in all seven municipalities covered under the zoning ordinance, not just the Woolrich property specifically.

Wise said he would speak with county planning director Katherine de Silva to discuss other options moving forward.