North Myrtle Beach council on Monday night voted to allow drug rehab facilities in Limited Industrial zoning districts under certain circumstances.
Prior to Monday’s vote, the city had zoning allowing for medical clinics in Highway Commercial districts, but the council voted to allow rehab facilities only in the Limited Industrial zoning district, which city code says is designed “to encourage the development of business and manufacturing uses relatively free of offensive elements in landscaped surroundings.”
The Limited Industrial zoning district will allow the facilities as a “special exception.” The zoning board of appeals can vote to allow the facilities as long as they comply with development standards, are “in substantial harmony” with the area where the facility will be located, is not injurious to adjoining property and “will not discourage or negate the use of surrounding property for use(s) permitted by right.”
The city only has three Limited Industrial zoning districts, all of which lie directly adjacent to the Intracoastal Waterway’s southern bank.
Recovery advocate Debra Eden said sticking rehab clinics in the Limited Industrial district instead of Highway Commercial with other clinics is a form of discrimination.
“This type of a clinic would be something that treats a medical condition,” Eden said. “Substance abuse is considered a chronic relapsing brain disease. And what they’re trying to do is to put it in an area that nobody will open a business. There’s hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of people who are dying from addiction. It’s a localized issue. I think a lot of people have their head in the sand in regards to what happens in the North Myrtle Beach area in regards to overdoses and whatnot.”
Mayor Marilyn Hatley directed questions concerning the rehab clinics to city staff.
“We did not really have a place in any ordinance for this type of clinic, and after the staff searched and looked around, this is the area staff recommended,” Hatley said, referring to a February 18 staff report to planning commission.
“There’s a difference in the clinic and it’s ultimately a council decision," said City Manager Mike Mahaney.
City spokesman Pat Dowling referred the question back to the February 18 staff report.
Eden, who’s in long-term recovery, lives in Brunswick County but attends meetings in North Myrtle Beach.
“I do a 12-step abstinence-based program, but for a lot of people, medication-assisted treatment is what they need,” Eden said. “It’s the gold standard for opiate addiction today. And again, their policies are trying to discriminate against a medical necessity.”