ST. LUCIE COUNTY, Fla. — UPDATE: St. Lucie County Commissioners vote 5-0 in favor of luxury detox facility for Hutchinson Island.
St. Lucie County Commissioners are expected to vote Tuesday night whether to rezone a piece of property that would allow a high-end detox facility to be built on Hutchinson Island.
After most tourists have gone, only the pelicans are enjoying the water off Frederick Douglas Beach.
But the possibility for a different kind of part-time resident to this stretch of South Hutchinson Island has sparked controversy.
“Unfortunately, this type of facility is something that people embrace from fear," said Sam Yates, who represents the developers of Atlantic Wellness.
They have proposed an $80 million resort style drug and alcohol facility.
“This is not a sober home. It’s not a halfway house, this is a full facility for treating addiction," said Yates.
The 220-bed complex would bring more than 200 jobs to the area.
Yates compared it to a Betty Ford Clinic.
“A spa resort, if you will, that will serve the entire Treasure Coast.”
Former County Commissioner Charles Grande lives on Hutchinson Island and says the project is proposed for the wrong place.
He sits on the Planning and Zoning Commission now, but was not on the board when it voted last year against the proposal.
“We’re not against a rehab facility but the facility should be sited in an area that’s consistent with that kind of usage," said Grande.
Grande says the facility is out of character for the area, and wonders whether people who have bought property nearby will want to build.
On top of the planning and zoning denial, because more than 50 percent of the landowners within 500 feet of the proposal are against it, in order to get the rezoning, the county must approve it by a four-fifths majority.
In the public record, there are dozens of comments from residents and visitors against the facility, but some strong letters of support, including from St. Lucie County Sheriff Ken Mascara.