Editor Gary Enos of Addiction Professional Magazine reported earlier this week about a settlement of the federal lawsuit between San Mateo County, California, Stillpath Retreat Center, co-owner Ray Blatt of the Alta Mira treatment center in Sausalito, and American Addiction Centers, stemming from the county Board of Supervisors’ spring 2014 vote denying a conditional use permit to allow the opening of an addiction treatment facility on the present site of the existing wellness retreat center.
San Mateo elected officials voted in late 2015 to spend $600,000 for the services of an outside law firm to defend the case.
According to David Silberman, a county attorney assigned to the case who spoke with Enos and Addiction Professional. “The evidence is that denial of a conditional use permit amendment was not because Stillpath was proposed as a treatment center, but because of the unmitigated increased impacts (e.g., fire, water, traffic) of the specific proposal.”
According to Addiction Professional, citing to local media reports, the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors in March 2014 reversed course from a county Planning Commission vote earlier that year to approve the conversion of the yoga and meditation retreat center to an addiction treatment center with more than 60 beds. Blatt’s family had purchased the property after the Planning Commission vote but before the Board of Supervisors considered the proposal. [Note: We advise all clients in a purchase or lease posture to include a zoning contingency in all real estate, particularly as this sort of gamesmanship is one of many arrows used in the quivers of local governments as a pretext to discrimination, but for which only the court system can resolve].
Supervisors said at the time of their unanimous vote against the proposal that neighbors’ concerns about traffic and resource impacts from a more intensive use of the 16-acre site influenced their opposition. But a source told Addiction Professional that plaintiffs in the lawsuit have evidence that some local voters urged supervisors to block a facility that would accept addicts, which would lend weight to the argument that the denial of the permit violated the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Fair Housing Act [shocker!].
The settlement agreement, under which the county admits no liability, calls for a county payment of $350,000 to Stillpath within 21 days of the agreement’s full execution, as well as an additional county payment of $100,000 within five days of being notified of a sale of the property.