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Men's rehab proposal irks OC neighbors

Oregon City’s Planning Commission meeting next Monday promises to be a popular spot for citizens testifying in favor of or against a permit to build a new 10,590-square-foot dormitory for people with drug and alcohol addiction issues.

Garry Wallace of Portland Metro Men’s Center and Teen Challenge will be there Feb. 10 to answer questions and address concerns. Wallace’s organization has been at the 405 Warner Parrott Road property since November 2012 for at least 16 hours a day. He says with a residential facility the Christian recovery program will be better equipped to help participants begin new lives.

That’s little consolation to nearby Oregon City resident Brandon Boyd. Although most locals, including Boyd, appreciate the motives behind drug and alcohol rehabilitation, neighbors have tended to

be more vocal against the proposal.

“When my three daughters go outside to play Barbies and ride bikes, I have to tell them no,” Boyd wrote to commissioners. “I must do this because there are convicted felons, drug addicts and alcoholics wandering 50 feet from our front yard.”

Anthony Ron Paola worried that the building of the Men’s Center in his neighborhood will lower his home’s property value even more than the decrease he’s suffered since purchasing in 2007.

“We need to feel safe in our homes, and at this time we do not,” Paola said. “I feel that this will even be worse with adding a new building that houses 60 beds.”

Wallace said the Men’s Center has tried to be a good neighbor and respond to complaints.

Approximately 28 students are currently enrolled in the program monitored by seven staff members. If the proposal is successful, Wallace hopes to build housing for up to 60 men 18 and older.

“Our guys want to turn their lives around, but they are not violent guys,” he said. “We do a complete background check to make sure they are not violent or sexual offenders. We have neighborhood children who walk across our parking lot on their way to and from school.”

Although some of the program participants are on probation, Wallace emphasized that the program is voluntary. There are some convicted felons, he said, but the majority committed low-level crimes. When his own daughter was in preschool she grew up around the program without any troubles, he added.

Boyd and other concerned neighbors will be trying to persuade Planning Commission members that a dormitory isn’t among the allowed uses for a treatment facility. He argued that the proposed dormitory would dwarf the surrounding 1,500- to 2,000-square-foot residential properties, thereby imparing their use as homes.

“The sheer size of the proposed building alters the character of the neighborhood significantly,” Boyd wrote.

The state of Oregon recognizes Teen Challenge as a church, and the organization doesn’t claim to be a treatment facility, although about 70 to 80 percent of its graduates successfully avoid relapse, Wallace said. He said that the area is zoned for the dormitory, and the Planning Commission just has to authorize a conditional use.

Wallace has been involved with Teen Challenge for 30 years and started a program in Dallas. He appreciated how the Warner Parrott site is located away from the temptations that were present at the Men’s Center’s previous location across the street from a porn shop and a bar on Sandy Boulevard in Portland.