Phoenix Hall gets zoning approval

Sep. 9—TRAVERSE CITY — Addiction Treatment Services has the go-ahead to offer substance abuse treatment at one of its homes in Traverse City.

Known as Phoenix Hall, the house on East State Street already houses women seeking treatment, said Addiction Treatment Services CEO Paula Lipinski. The nonprofit sought a special land use permit from the city so it can start providing treatment within the home.

That'll create an opportunity for women with children, Lipinski said. Not having a place for their children to go can be a barrier to treatment for many mothers with substance use disorders. She recounted how she was lucky enough to have a supportive family and ex-husband when she sought treatment for her alcohol use disorder.

"But many women do not have that, so this would be an opportunity to provide treatment within the home and allow the women to remain with their children," she said.

Lipinski said ATS canvassed the neighborhood and invited neighbors to an open house for feedback while seeking the special land use permit.

An omission in the approval process meant the planning commission had to hold a second public hearing on July 18, Interim City Manager Nate Geinzer said. They again voted unanimously to recommend approval.

Lori Jean Hunt, who lives near Phoenix Hall, told city commissioners she's in recovery herself and supports the treatment center. But she was concerned about the proximity of Little Fleet and the drinking that came with it.

Between live music playing into the night and pedal pubs cycling by, it seemed like a "big party central" that would do more to sabotage the recovery efforts of the women at Phoenix Hall.

She suggested it might be better for ATS to sell and move the home elsewhere.

But Mary Harwood, a clinical therapist who will be program manager for Phoenix Hall when in-house treatment services begin there, said the only way to get clients away from drugs and alcohol is to put them "really away."

"And I don't want to see any of the women go through that," she said. "I want to see them in a home where they have lots of resources and lots of support."

Women who stay at Phoenix House can use it as an opportunity to learn coping skills, Harwood said.

Lipinski echoed this, noting another ATS residential facility, the Dakoske House, is around the corner from a bar. That's increasingly the reality across much of Traverse City, so trying to avoid alcohol entirely could mean its facilities get pushed out of the city where they've been for 40 years.

Plus, the idea of selling and buying another location isn't realistic.

"As a person in recovery, I take offense to that, in reality, to say, well just put us somewhere else," she said.

Peninsula Township resident Grant Parsons said he grew up in the neighborhood and, while he couldn't opine on ATS, he cautioned commissioners to be wary of more pressures on a neighborhood already squeezed by commercial development from two directions.

Commissioners approved the special land use permit unanimously, and Mayor Richard Lewis said that, as someone in recovery, he's glad ATS is available for people who need residential treatment.

"I'm also happy that I didn't have to go into a recovery hall, but I'm glad they're there for others that have to go there," he said.