Neighbors upset, city can’t stop drug addict center planned at church

About 20 residents near the vacant Branch of the Vine Church in Miamisburg attended a city council meeting Tuesday night to relay their concerns about a plan to have a drug addiction recovery center will hurt the neighborhood. NICK BLIZZARD/STAFF

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About 20 residents near the vacant Branch of the Vine Church in Miamisburg attended a city council meeting Tuesday night to relay their concerns about a plan to have a drug addiction recovery center will hurt the neighborhood. NICK BLIZZARD/STAFF

The pending sale of a Miamisburg church to a group helping recovering drug addicts has nearby residents worried the move will hurt the neighborhood.

But the recovery group – His Hope Teen Challenge – said those fears are unfounded as it seeks to aid area drug addicts amid record-setting fatal opioid overdoses by turning the Branch of the Vine Church at 201 N. Fourth St. into an outreach center.

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Miamisburg officials said their hands are tied on the issue as long as Teen Challenge complies with zoning guidelines.

“We certainly can’t do anything about a church located in that spot,” Miamisburg Law Director Phil Callahan said.

“If the use starts becoming something other than what our code defines as a church, then it’s certainly something that we can look at to see whether or not he meets our code,” he added.

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Nonetheless, people who live near the church “have strong opposition” to the plan, neighborhood resident Charles Lewis told Miamisburg City Council Tuesday night.

“We’re concerned about our safety, our freedom of movement and our property values,” he said. “To think that our property values are not going to be negatively impacted is burying your head in the sand.

“We’re very concerned about importing recovering addicts into our neighborhood,” Lewis added. “We feel our neighborhood is a bit fragile. While we know there is a need for this type of facility, we feel it should not be in a residential area with children and grandchildren riding their bikes and playing on the sidewalk.”

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Buying the church would give Teen Challenge its first property in the Dayton area, said Miamisburg Wesleyan Church Pastor Jan Toft, a board member for the local Teen Challenge. The organization, which officials said has sites in Cincinnati and Columbus, began in the 1950s, according to its website.

The zoning application filed with the city by Teen Challenge President Rusty Toadvine indicates an intention to have an “outreach/referral center.”

“We plan on serving individuals and families impacted by addiction through outreach, support groups and referral services,” the application states.

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The proposal for the center comes at a time when overdose deaths in Montgomery County have topped 400 this year, already a 17 percent hike over the 2016’s 12-month totals, records show. Miamisburg’s overdose death total for 2017 stands at 20, four more than all of the previous year.

“We’re just trying to help (solve) the problem,” Toft said.“Some of the citizens around that area are a little bit worried.”

The primary focus of the organization’s effort at the church, she said, would be:

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-Offer support groups for people who are coming out of addiction and “getting their lives together.”

-Provide help for parents who have addicted children.

-Hold worship services for people in the area.

“I think they’re not fully understanding the use that we have in mind,” Toft said of the residents’ concerns.

“They’re picturing a full rehab center and some of the affects it can have on property values,” she added. We’re not going to be doing any of those things that would cause a problem there.”

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The church, which occupies less than a half acre, was bought by Branch of the Vine Inc. for $135,000 in March 2004, according to the county auditor’s website. It’s the city’s understanding the church operated “until very recently,” according to Miamiburg Public Information Officer Gary Giles.

Teen Challenge could close the deal to buy the church “any day,” Toft said.

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