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December 21, 2018

Planners endorse 24-bed addiction recovery center

The PATH Foundation has a contract to purchase the 50-acre Twin Oaks property, assessed at $1.9 million for county tax purposes, from Angela and Mark Smith.
Photo/Lawrence Emerson
“I’m very concerned about the permanent change in the status of the land we’ve work hard to keep open and rural,” neighboring landowner Kim Head says. “I don’t understand why this is the right place for this center.”
I saw hope. Hope is the key to recovery; hope is the key to turning your life around; hope is the key to wellness.
— Mental Health Association of Fauquier Executive Director Sallie Morgan
Public Hearing
• Topic:  Special exception permit to establish a 24-bed residential addiction recovery center on 50 acres at 6791 James Madison Highway (Route 17) just north of Warrenton.

• When: 6:40 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 20.

• Agency: Fauquier County Planning Commission.

• Length: About 36 minutes.

• Speakers: 12, with 10 supporting, one opposing the application; one speaker took no position.

• Action: Commission voted, 5-0, recommended approval of the application.

• Where: Warren Green Building, 10 Hotel St., Warrenton

• Applicant: Warrenton-based Fauquier Health Foundation, doing business as PATH Foundation.

• Property owners: Mark S. and Angela Smith.

• Zoning: Rural, with a small amount of village fronting James Madison Highway.

• Details: The PATH Foundation and Massachusetts-based Herren Wellness Group want to establish a residential “spiritual wellness” center on the property to treat up to 24 recovering drug addicts and alcoholics. The “private-pay” retreat model uses meditation, yoga, mindfulness, reiki, exercise and group and individual coaching to provide residents with skills “necessary to return to a drug- and alcohol-free full and productive life.” It would employ 12 full- and eight part-time or contract workers.

• Next: The planning commission serves as an advisory panel to the county board of supervisors, which has final authority. The board Jan. 10 probably will conduct a public hearing on the application and could approve it that night.
By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
Staff Journalist
Clearing the first of two important hurdles Thursday night, the PATH Foundation won the support of Fauquier’s planning commission to establish a residential addiction recovery center north of Warrenton.

After a 36-minute public hearing, the commission unanimously recommended approval of the Warrenton-based nonprofit’s special exception application for the proposed 24-bed, “private-pay” Herren Wellness Retreat at Twin Oaks on 50 acres along James Madison Highway (Route 17).

The five-member commission serves as an advisory panel to the county board of supervisors, which has final authority on the project — Fauquier’s first residential treatment center.

The board will conduct a Jan. 10 public hearing on the application and could approve it that night.

Twelve speakers, including three PATH representatives and Herren Wellness Group founder Chris Herren, backed the proposal.

A neighboring landowner opposed the application, arguing the use would be inappropriate in a rural area. Another adjoining landowner expressed similar concerns but took no position on the matter.

Employing 12-full and 8 part-time or contract workers, the center would operate in the main house — a 2-1/2-story, 11,700-square-foot stucco structure — and a 760-square-foot stucco home on the property. The proposed site also includes an in-ground pool, a tennis court, a barn and various outbuildings.

The center “would provide local access to residential recovery, which speaks to two of our four focus areas — access to care and mental health,” PATH Foundation CEO Christy Connolly told the commission. “In the last five years, since our inception, we have invested nearly $2.5 million in (local) programs and services to address mental health alone.”

PATH’s association with Mr. Herren began last fall when the organization brought the former NBA guard to Fauquier, Culpeper and Rappahannock to speak to students about his drug addiction and recovery.

A few schools started “Project Purple” clubs — a method the Herren Wellness Group uses to “raise awareness of substance use issues,” Ms. Connolly explained to the commission.

That led to discussions about “other ways” the two nonprofits “might work together” to address substance abuse in the area, she added.

Ms. Connolly, other PATH staff members and Mental Health Association of Fauquier County Executive Director Sallie Morgan last summer visited the Herren Wellness Center in Seekonk, Mass.

“We were very impressed with the program there and started talking about possibilities within our community,” Ms. Connolly said.

Like the Herren center in Massachusetts, the proposed Fauquier retreat would use meditation, yoga, mindfulness, reiki, exercise and group and individual coaching to provide residents with skills “necessary to return to a drug- and alcohol-free full and productive life,” according to the special exception application.

“We think this is an important part of the puzzle for mental health solutions,” Ms. Connolly said. “It’s not the only solution, but it’s one of many that we are supporting, and will support in the future.”

Her tour of the Herren center in Massachusetts demonstrated “what a difference a nurturing wellness-oriented community can make,” said Ms. Morgan.

“And you know what I saw?” she continued. “I saw hope. Hope is the key to recovery; hope is the key to turning your life around; hope is the key to wellness.”

Mr. Herren spoke about his decision to help addicts and their families.

In the last eight years, he has talked to more than one million children about substance abuse and created a nonprofit that has assisted about 4,000 families affected by addictions unable to afford treatment.

Determined to do more, he last spring opened the wellness center in Massachusetts, Mr. Herren said.

“I wanted to think outside of the box and not leave anybody behind,” he said.

The feedback generated by his presentations to area students made him “feel a part of this community,” Mr. Herren told the commission.

“I love this community,” he said. “I look forward to a long-lasting relationship.”

Insurance doesn’t cover services provided by Herren Wellness.

Residents of its Massachusetts center stay at least four weeks and may remain there as long as six months, according to the group’s website. A four-week stay costs $12,500 to $15,000.

Richmond-based SpiritWorks Foundation operates a counseling center at 30 Marshall St. in downtown Warrenton.

Rev. Jan M. Brown, SpiritWorks’ founder and executive director, has no doubt Fauquier would benefit from the proposed wellness center.

The Herren approach has proven effective and the proposed setting provides the kind of environment critical too “early recovery,” Rev. Brown said.

“This is ideal, because it’s not in town,” she said. “It’s away from a lot of activity, and it will allow for the healing aspects to be addressed.”

Leon Bushara lives on the 128-acre Loretta Farm next to the proposed center site.

“No reasonable person objects to the proposition that (addiction recovery) facilities ought to be made available as close to patients as possible, and those facilities should be as accessible as possible,” Mr. Bushara said.

He views the proposed use as incompatible with a rural area.

He also expressed concerns about the effects a “dramatic” increase in well water use by clients and employees would have on aquifers that serve nearby landowners.

Mr. Bushara also worried about how the property might get used if the Herren center “were to not succeed at this location, and PATH found itself owning a piece of real estate that it no longer continued to want.”

Kim Head, who owns 40 acres adjoining the proposed site, voiced concerns about groundwater use and traffic related to the center.

Ms. Head, whose late father Murdock Head founded the nearby Airlie Center, also fears the illness retreat would be a threat to the area’s rural character.

“I’m very concerned about the permanent change in the status of the land we’ve work hard to keep open and rural,” she said. “I don’t understand why this is the right place for this center.”

Planning Commission Chairwoman Adrienne Garreau (Scott District) noted that a special exception permit unused for two years would expire.

A proposed change of use for the property also would require a new special exception permit from the supervisors, Ms. Garreau said.

PATH has a contract to buy the proposed wellness retreat site from Angela S. and Mark S. Smith, who live there and rent eight of Twin Oaks Historic Manor House’s bedrooms on Airbnb

For tax purposes, Fauquier County values the property at $1.9 million. The Smiths bought it in May 2017 from Airlie Foundation for $1.1 million.

Planning Commissioner Bob Lee (Marshall) said he appreciates neighbors’ misgivings about the project, including safe vehicle access to and from the site.

Mr. Lee encouraged PATH officials to continue to talk with neighbors about their various concerns.

At the same time, “I feel like it’s something needed in the community,” he said moments before the commission’s vote. “I don’t know that there’s not a better place . . . but it seems to me it can be done here the right way.”

Supervisors Rick Gerhardt (Cedar Run District) and Mary Leigh McDaniel (Marshall) serve on the PATH Foundation Board of Directors.

But, based on County Attorney Kevin Burke's interpretation of state law, both supervisors would have no conflict of interest if they choose to discuss and vote on PATH's special exception permit application.

“There is no legal prohibition against their participation,” because Ms. McDaniel and Mr. Gerhart “receive no compensation for their service on the PATH board,” Mr. Burke said in an email.

Contact Don Del Rosso at Don@FauquierNow.com or 540-270-0300. 

PATH:Herren Wellness Specia... by on Scribd

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