Hearing set for proposed Eklutna substance abuse recovery center

Sunday, May 21, 2017 - 17:32
  • Star photo by Kirsten Swann A stretch of Eklutna Lake Road near the planned site of the new Ernie Turner Center, May 1, 2017. The proposed facility would feature short and long-term residential care for people recovering from substance abuse.
  • The planned site of the new Ernie Turner Center, May 1, 2017. A public hearing on a conditional use permit for the proposed facility is scheduled to take place at an Anchorage Planning and Zoning Commission meeting May 8. (Star photo by Kirsten Swann)

A proposed substance abuse recovery center near Eklutna Lake is moving through the municipal permitting process, taking another step closer to breaking ground.

On May 8, the Anchorage Planning and Zoning Commission is scheduled to hold a public hearing on a conditional use permit for the Ernie Turner Center – Recovery Journey Program.

The residential center is under development by Cook Inlet Tribal Council, Cook Inlet Housing Authority and Eklutna, Inc. on a secluded six-acre site approximately two miles down Eklutna Lake Road. Construction is expected to begin this spring and finish in 2018, according to a conditional use permit application filed by project managers in March. The current Ernie Turner program operates out of a building on Tudor Road.

The new Eklutna site plans call for a 16-bed facility with living spaces, an exercise room, an arts and crafts room, a carving studio, gathering rooms and office space, according to the project’s permit application. Potential residents would be subject to “stringent screening,” and the facility would be monitored by 13 staff members during the day and several at night, according to permit filings. While some center residents would be free to leave at any time, others would be required to undergo rehabilitation as a condition of their parole.

Project managers presented plans and answered questions at community meetings in December 2016 and January of this year. In January, the Eklutna Valley Community Council passed a resolution of support for the concept, reserving the right to “constructively critique and comment on the re-platting, rezoning, and conditional use permit applications as more details are made available.”

In February, the Chugiak-Eagle River Advisory Board – which represents all six local community councils – passed its own resolution of support for the recovery center concept, noting “the special challenges that may be faced due to isolation, particularly from emergency services and public transportation.”

According to a permit application for the proposed center, the site was chosen specifically for its “beauty, tranquility, and related positive impacts on recovery.” There are only three neighbors within a one-mile radius — a private home, a municipal water treatment plant and a state park.

At its Tuesday, May 9 meeting, the Anchorage Assembly is scheduled to decide on a land use designation change and rezone for the Eklutna Lake Road site, according to the Anchorage Planning Department.

The May 8 Planning and Zoning Commission meeting is scheduled to take place in the Anchorage Assembly chambers at the Loussac Library beginning at 6:30 p.m.

Contact Star reporter Kirsten Swann at [email protected]

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