Two Drug Rehab Centers Proposed for Same Earleville Road; Cecil County Backs Treatment Options

September 26, 2014
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The Cecil County government has been quietly working with sponsors of two separate drug rehabilitation centers to bring live-in treatment facilities to Grove Neck road in rural Earleville, including a 50-bed medical facility on the site of the Bracebridge Hall mansion and farmland. The first public disclosure of the projects came Thursday 9/26/14 at a meeting of the county’s Drug and Alcohol Abuse Council.

The second project is seeking to take over an old house on Grove Farm that is now owned by the State of Maryland as part of a sprawling 750-acre wildlife conservation area. Local minister Phil Meekins—who recently established Monarch House, a “recovery” house accommodating two former addicts in North East—said he is partnering with a Richmond, VA group to seek a free lease on the house under a state “curatorship” for historic properties in need of extensive renovations. The state program requires a minimum of $175,000 in repair expenditures by the curator.

While neither project has yet to actually acquire the properties or receive necessary approvals from state agencies for operating a drug rehab facility, the county government has been working with the participants behind the scenes. This summer, her administration sent a letter to the state supporting the application of the Meekins group for the Grove Farm property, County Executive Tari Moore said.

And for the past month or so, she said, her administration has been working with representatives of Recovery Centers of America on the Bracebridge Hall proposal.

Darcy Brazzle and Jay Youtz told Cecil Times that Recovery Centers of America (RCA) is “85 percent owned by” a King of Prussia, PA real estate developer, Brian O’Neill, as a profit-making business that has plans to develop at least 11 drug rehab centers in Maryland, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania.

While Brazzle and Youtz said they had many years of experience on the staffs of various drug rehab centers, Recovery Centers of America is a start-up business that, according to its promotional materials, is seeking to create “the first nationally branded provider of substance abuse and recovery support services in the country.”

O’Neill is a colorful real estate developer, who specializes in obtaining “brownfields” polluted industrial sites and converting them into offices, retail and condo developments. The Philadelphia media often chronicles his adventures and boasts, from hosting the Dalai Lama on a private jet—“I called him Dolly,” O’Neill was quoted as saying in Philadelphia Magazine—to high-profile legal battles with banks that called in loans on some of his projects.

The Bracebridge Hall site is as far from a brownfields site as you could get, with a recent-vintage eight-bedroom mansion built as another real estate developer’s personal waterfront retreat and known as McGill Creek Farms, until it was sold to the former MBNA as a corporate retreat for $4.35 million in 1997, according to state property records. MBNA added a conference center to the property, which has more than 500 acres and is zoned Southern Agricultural Reserve (SAR) and Resource Conservation Area (RCA.)

Baltimore-based developers subsequently bought the property for $13.6 million in 2005 and got Cecil County approval to subdivide the land to allow 108 homesites, an on-site “shared facility” sewage system to serve the proposed homes and “bonus density” as well as shifting a few acres from resource conservation to “limited development” permission, according to county planning and zoning and commissioner records.

But the initial concept for a time-share resort fell through and the property changed hands several times among various real estate investors and banks, with the latest change being a $7.5 million bank auction last year the left the property owned by a Miami, FL operation, according to property records. Officials of RCA said the company has a contract for the property but the sale has not yet been finalized.

Despite O’Neill’s background as a real estate developer, Brazzle said there were no plans to develop the 108 residential lots on the Bracebridge site. She said RCA officials had been discussing “zoning issues” with the county and had offered to place some of the property’s more environmentally sensitive areas into “conservation.” RCA is hoping to fast-track the project and open it to patients by 2/1/15.

The Grove Farm and Bracebridge facilities would be located a short distance from one another on Grove Neck Road, a winding, narrow county road with no shoulders.

Brazzle said the Bracebridge facility would have nursing staff on duty “24/7” and would offer in-patient medical care for detoxification from illegal drugs. In-patient programs would last 30 days while out-patient programs would also be offered, she said, and the facility would employ at least 63 on-site workers. Renovations would be made to convert the eight-bedroom mansion into housing for 50 patients, including “private rooms, doubles, and dorms.”

In case of medical emergency, the area is served by the Cecilton and Hack’s Point volunteer fire companies’ basic ambulances. Both companies sought funds from the county government two years ago to hire some paid ambulance staff to improve slow response times to calls in the rural area, but the county did not provide funds.

RCA’s promotional materials emphasize that the start-up operation is buying “spectacular estate settings in affluent areas” and will provide “luxurious” accommodations and private “black car services” to bring patients to the facilities. But Brazzle said the Earleville facility would not be like some other nationally advertised programs that do not accept insurance and cater to wealthy addicts.

Although an in-patient stay might cost up to $30,000, she said the program would offer some “scholarships” and had already been talking with Cecil County Health Department officials about “different funding that’s available” for “having some beds slated” for local patients with limited incomes.

And RCA seeks to capitalize on provisions of the federal Affordable Care Act that require mental health treatment to be fully covered by health insurance and cap out-of-pocket expenses for treatment at $6,350.

Brazzle said that some of RCA’s other proposed sites have faced “roadblocks” on zoning issues and citizen protests. The SAR and RCA designations for the Bracebridge site indicate there could be hurdles in Cecil County as well. Even locating a commercial dog kennel in the SAR zone requires a special exception from the planning commission and the Board of Appeals under county zoning law.

County Planning and Zoning director Eric Sennstrom was reported out of the office on Friday but Cecil Times messaged him about questions on the site’s zoning and permissible uses and will update this report upon his response.

[UPDATE: Sennstrom said that he had not met with any representatives of RCA on the Bracebridge property. He said the proposed facility would be designated as a hospital under county zoning law and would be permitted in the SAR zone, but it would require approval of a special exception from the planning board and Board of Appeals. He said there would also be issues regarding hooking up and building the permitted sewage system, since the main house’s existing septic service would be inadequate to serve 50 patients.]

During the drug and alcohol council meeting, County Council President Robert Hodge (R-5) commented that advocates for drug treatment programs should go to planning and zoning meetings to “support these efforts and not let not-in-my-backyard efforts prevent these efforts from happening.”

For most of the drug and alcohol council meeting, representatives of various volunteer groups spoke about their efforts to help addicts and their families with counseling and support groups, receiving applause and commendation from council members.

Moore praised the “dedication and passion” of people working in the drug rehab field and said, “I’m very confident that, working together, we will make progress.”

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4 Responses to Two Drug Rehab Centers Proposed for Same Earleville Road; Cecil County Backs Treatment Options

  1. Mike R on September 27, 2014 at 9:35 am

    Doesn’t the south end of the county have enough problems of being dumped on to now have the possibility of not one but two drug rehab facilities. I for one am very opposed to having drug rehabilitation centers in my backyard. If Hodge and his cronies think this is such a great thing maybe they should look for facilities in their backyard.

    What impact will these drug rehabs have on our emergency services and police protection south of the canal? What impact will these two drug rehabs have on property values on the south side of the Bohemia River? So They would not allow a drug clinic on route 40 in Elkton but now it’s okay to have two in Earleville. HELL NO!!!! What Kool-Aid has Moore been drinking?

  2. Jeannette H on September 27, 2014 at 9:47 am

    Seems to me that there are enough empty buildings in Elkton and Rt. 40 to keep these drug treatment places in towns where services are in abundance. There seems to be plenty of available space right next door to the county offices. So the county employees are worried about their safety by beefing up security in their building– but they don’tt consider what safety issues this will cause the residents on the south side of the canal.

    Dumping which contaminated drinking water in Earleville and now drug addicts living in our little corner of the county. Hodge, why don’t you accomodate them in YOUR back-yard?

  3. Mary Warsizky on October 6, 2014 at 4:37 pm

    What planet is our county executive living on to say this is such a great idea? If you put 50 drug addicts, while they go through the medical detox process in a rural area that is at least 25 miles from a hospital, how do you expect the local emergency services to handle this?

    So the rich addicts from other states who are staying at this place will get priority over the local taxpaying citizens who might be having a heart attack???

  4. V. Pfeiffer on January 18, 2015 at 7:04 pm

    What difference does it make? The ARMY Corp of Engineers is dumping spoilage onto Pierce Creek land with no redress. Take it or leave, right? Residents must use bottled water and wait for Cecilton to pipe potable water to them at some undetermined point in the future. It is already clear that Cecil County has become the “Bastard Stepchild” of Maryland.

    County officials have already indicated that their allegence lies with the state. The concerns of our citizens have litle or no impact on their decision making process. Now that they turned this part of the country into Tier 4 land, why not add insult into injury by adding drug rehabilitation centers in land already designated as tier 4.

    Clearly it is ok to selectively earmark land as developmental when it suits the benefits of the state or someone’s pockets in some back room deal somewhere. So yes, go ahead and do the dastardly deed down here in Earleville, no one will notice, since we are so far out of the perceptable eye, and off the beaten path, who is going to care anyway? Why not put the hospital in your neighborhood, Tari?

    Our property values have already taken a huge dump, while we still continue to pay taxes on assessments of when the housing bubble was at its peak. No relief there either, right Tari? Some leader you turned out to be.
    Next election will be different, beleive me.

    Does this mean we will get Grove Neck Rd. paved if you put that [rehab hospital] out here so your elitist drug [patients] can have a clean unpock-marked road to drive on too? But you don’t have the money to pave the roads here…

    You let developments build roads without proper land surveys and road design requirements. Anything goes out in the land of the sticks, right Tari?

    Earleville might as well be Pidgeon Holler, Tennessee. This whole thing is a sham and all of you on the council know it. Do you have a list of other indignities that we in Earleville are going to have to suffer at your hands, or are you just happy to see us– Go, that is.

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