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St. Lucie Co. residents suing county for approving drug treatment facility for South Hutchinson Island

Posted at 11:01 PM, Jul 23, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-24 04:10:59-04

ST. LUCIE COUNTY, Fla. — Some South Hutchinson Island residents in St. Lucie County are banding together to stop the construction of a drug rehabilitation center.

Two people, Dr. Cindy Wasserman, and Gary Cicalese, are named on a recently-filed lawsuit against the county.

“Our goal is to hopefully put an end to this,” Dr. Wasserman said.

While the names of just two residents are on the lawsuit, Wasserman said she has the support of anywhere from 50 to 70 residents behind her.

In May, despite the pleas of dozens of residents, county commissioners unanimously approved rezoning a 22-acre residential property to a non-residential property to accommodate the 220-bed addiction-treatment center on South Hutchinson Island.

The Atlantic Wellness facility is an $87 million project.

Wasserman says she is not against having a new treatment facility of this scale in the county. She says the location is not the right fit.

"I have no problem with a drug rehabilitation center. I actually have personal experience with a loved one who passed away. So, I’m well aware of what’s necessary. But, this is not an appropriate place for a 220-bed drug and alcohol rehabilitation center,” Wasserman said.

Her attorney now tasked with reviewing the concerns Wasserman and other residents have about safety, environmental impact, and how it fits into the comprehensive plan for the county.

“We have wetlands. Waivers were given to them which can have an effect on the land here right by the beach,” Wasserman said.

She worries about how effective the facility’s evacuation plan will be in an emergency.

“There are additional strains on public services, police, fire, and ambulance getting out to a barrier island,” Wasserman said. "This is an issue with the board of commissioners voting against a great majority of their constituents.”

However, the facility did receive support from other community stakeholders, including St. Lucie County Sheriff Ken Mascara.

County leaders also noted the creation of new jobs in the county and the benefit to the tax base.

“Sometimes it’s not all about money,” Wasserman said.

A County Spokesman said the county could not offer a comment, which is standard when a county is under litigation.

Wasserman has started a GoFundMe page to help cover the costs of the legal action.