“In my three and a half years sitting in this chair, today has been one of the heaviest,” said Vawnita Best, a McKenzie County commissioner.
A heavy decision is how Best described the vote put before the board. And in the end, it was also a close one. In a three to two vote, the McKenzie County board of commissioners voted to deny a planned unit development for a residential treatment center that would provide services for individuals with substance abuse issues.
“I commend the commissioners. They had a tough decision. I do believe it was the right decision.” said Lance Powell, a property owner in Alex Township.
The McKenzie County planning and zoning board made a recommendation for denial to the county board of commissioners based, in part, on the recommendation of the Alex Township, where the treatment center would have been located.
“They don’t want to be imposed upon by the county. And I think the commissioners recognized that and said we’re going to follow the will of the people,” said Jim Talbert, McKenzie County Planning and Zoning director.
But an attorney representing Summit Counseling, the not-for-profit agency proposing the residential treatment center, referenced a petition showing many Alex township members were in support of the treatment center. In the end, it was enough to influence one commissioner’s decision to approve re-zoning the property. But not enough to gain the support of the board as a whole.
“We’re pretty bummed about the outcome today. I do hope that Summit keeps pushing. Maybe not for this facility, but for somewhere else,” said Amber Exon, a Watford City resident.
Many were in disagreement about the facility’s location.
“I don’t think anybody really won on this. It would be a good thing to have for the community. But it was just against our comprehensive plan, the zoning,” said Powell.
But in the end, most agreed on one thing.
“This is something we have to look at. We have to find a spot some place,” said Tom McCabe, McKenzie County commissioner.
Since the planning and zoning board recommended denial of Summit’s request to re-zone the property, Commissioner Kathy Skarda proposed a motion to pass the denial of that request. McCabe seconded and Best also voted to side with the county planning and zoning board. Commissioners Douglas Nordby and Gene Veeder voted against the planning and zoning board’s recommendation for denial.
The final vote was 3-2 in favor of supporting the planning and zoning board’s denial of the request to re-zone the property.
Summit Counseling, which requested re-zoning for the residential treatment center, has seven offices throughout Western North Dakota, offering services for substance abuse and mental health issues.