Mon., Feb. 13 is the Community Council deadline for comments on a request to rezone approximately 16 acres near mile 2 of the Eklutna Valley Road where the Ernie Turner Center intends to establish a substance abuse recovery center.
A public hearing has been set for Mon., March 6 during the Anchorage Municipality Planning and Zoning Commission meeting held at the Loussac Library Anchorage Assembly Chamber meeting room at 6:30 p.m.
The Loussac Library is located at 3600 Denali Street in Anchorage.
The rezone request asks to rezone the area from low density, alpine slope with special limitations to “public lands and institutions” with special limitations.
The Eklutna Valley Community Council (EVCC), at their January meeting, voted to submit a resolution supporting the project requiring the rezoning.
The request moves forward a plan to build an addiction recovery facility on Eklutna, Inc. land at the lower end of Eklutna Lake Road.
The Ernie Turner Center – Recovery Journey Program will provide substance abuse treatment for individuals in all stages of recovery. Eklunta, Inc., Cook Inlet Tribal Council (CITC), and Cook Inlet Housing Authority (CIHA) are partnering the project as a continuum of the Ernie Turner Center (ETC) in Anchorage after the current property at the corner of Tudor and Elmore was sold to Southcentral Foundation. That center will eventually operate under a different name.
At a Dec. 13 public open house, Eklutna Inc. CEO, Curtis McQueen, introduced the project sharing that the facility will retain the name of the original Ernie Turner Center.
Gloria O’Neill, president and CEO of CITC, explained that the Center, originally established in Anchorage, had been working, but there continued to be a need. This concern started the partnership between CITC, CIHA and Eklunta, Inc. O’Neill said the partnership looked at six different sites and decided on the parcel on Eklutna Lake Road because of “it’s beauty, tranquility and related positive impacts on recovery.”
The facility will be organized on tribal concepts; the house has a family chief and operates as a family. This is known as a therapeutic “Village of Care” model, a nationally recognized treatment method. According to a fact sheet provided by Michelle Ritter of DOWL, the process will emphasize “peer-led programming and interdependence anchored in traditional Alaska Native values.” However, the program will open to those with other backgrounds.
The new facility will have 16 beds for short and long-term care, served by 13 professional staff, including nurses, and the emphasis will be on inpatient treatment with no detox services. Staff will be on site and available for 24-hour care.
A “stringent” screening process of applicants will be conducted in order to match the program with individuals for successful outcomes. The fact sheet reports that at six months, up to 86 percent of residential graduates of the ETC report reduction in use and in harmful behaviors. In addition, 98 percent of individuals from the CITC program become gainfully employed after full graduation. The Anchorage program has a 20-year history.
In addition to the rezoning requests, the development will also require a conditional use permit.
Dan Thompson, a member of the EVCC, said that the attending public seemed generally open to the idea.
“I was impressed that they (the presenters) seemed really interested in the aspects of the local community,” Thompson said. “They were taking notes as we spoke with them.”
Some of the community concerns voiced at the open house included current road plowing limitations, septic and well system problems in the area and the amount of vehicle and foot traffic anticipated on the steep and windy road.
According to the presenters, they hope the project creates a haven for its residents so they will want to remain on site.
The project will go through the permitting process where the design team will work with the Municipality of Anchorage and the State of Alaska Department of Traffic and Public Facilities to determine the “most appropriate design mitigations” for the site and roadway. Road maintenance issues will be discussed during that process.
The Ernie Turner Center – Recovery Journey Center is not connected with another concept, the “Vet Village.” The “Vet Village” project has not received the support of Eklutna, Inc, the landowner, nor the Native Village of Eklutna. According to those at the December meeting, neither of the groups had been consulted by the proponents of the “Vet Village.”
The site survey is complete. The next step will include geotechnical drilling on the site.
The Community Council deadline for comment is Mon., Feb. 13. Agency comment deadlines and a public hearing are set for March 6, 2017. The Planning and Zoning case number for the rezoning request is 2017-0020.
Editor’s Note: Gretchen Wehmhoff is a member of the ECHO News team. She is a long-time Chugiak resident and a former journalism instructor at Chugiak High School. During her candidacy for Anchorage Assembly, Wehmhoff will not be covering issues the Assembly votes on.