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UPDATE: Court overrules motion by city to amend original complaint against residential treatment facility

(WTAP)
Published: Mar. 21, 2019 at 10:46 PM EDT
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UPDATE 9/4/19

A motion by the city of Marietta to amend its original complaint in its civil lawsuit against Oriana House was dismissed Tuesday.

The lawsuit is over the use of the old women's home on Third Street as a residential treatment facility.

According to court documents online, appointed Judge John Solovan overruled a motion by the city to amend its original complaint. The motion involved an old state statute that said a residential facility could be operated in a multi-family district or zone.

The old women's home, in this case, is in a single-family residential zone.

The court ruled that this statute had no relevance to the original complaint and it does not prohibit the treatment facility from operating at its current location. Instead, the judge found the argument comes down to the original dispute over whether or not Oriana House needs a special use permit.

Oriana House officials say they feel confident moving forward after this decision.

"Yeah we feel I don't want to you know comfortable in where we're at." executive vice president Bernie Rochford said. "I think the ruling while you know not final on on the ultimate issue, it leans in that direction I guess so we feel pretty comfortable that we're on solid ground and anxiously await the judge's decision."

The court is expected to come down with a final decision in this case in the coming weeks.

We reached out to the city for comment on this story but received no response.


UPDATE 4/26/19

Oriana House filed a response to the city of Marietta's civil complaint Wednesday in Washington County common pleas court.

Bernard Rochford, executive vice president of administrative services, said they believe they can continue to operate under the same non-conforming use "as a matter of right" that the old Washington County women's home did before they closed at the property on Third Street.

The city's complaint is asking the court to cease operations immediately at the residential facility until Oriana House receives a special use permit from the city's planning commission.

But Rochford said that they do not have to go before the planning commission.

"It seems pretty clear that we have a right to be there," Rochford said. "We got the proper permits from the city and the county. We did all the things that the zoning ordinance required us to do. Because we have this dispute the court will have to decide whether we're correct or the city is correct."

John Solovan, a Belmont County judge, has been appointed to the case after local judges recused themselves.


UPDATE 4/23/19

The city of Marietta filed a complaint for an injunction against Oriana House.

Oriana House, which provides drug and substance abuse treatment services, is seeking to buy the old women’s home on Third Street to open a residential treatment facility.

"A relatively short timeline established to kind of rule on the interpretation of definitions within the law and how that property can and cannot be used," Councilman and chair of the planning and zoning committee Geoff Schnekel said.

The motion asks the court to determine whether Oriana House must obtain a special use permit from the city’s planning commission to use the property the way it plans to.

“Oriana house disagrees that that step is required and so the judge will, and the attorneys will sort that out,” Schenkel said.

Several parents from nearby St. Mary’s school have voiced opposition to the facility being so close to the school.

Schenkel, who has kids in the school, has tried to act as a mediator between concerned parents and Oriana House.

In fact, he and a group of parents even took a trip up to one of Oriana House's similar facilities in Akron to see how the center works. Schenkel said the drug crisis has hit our area particularly hard and has people scared.

"We've got to be slow, methodical and make sure we get this right," he added, "because no matter where a facility like this ends up, it's going to be hard for people and we've got to kind of shepherd through change because we're living in a new reality."

Schenkel also added that this case has caused them to take a good hard look at the city’s zoning laws which haven’t been updated for decades.

"Things like Oriana House, we just didn’t have those kinds of concerns back then," he said, "and it’s time to update things so that we can more thoroughly take change into account."

A spokesperson from Oriana House said they are in talks with Bertram and their attorneys are trying to "narrow down" issues raised in the complaint.

ORIGINAL STORY 3/21/19

As an adult halfway house looks to purchase property in Marietta, city officials put the brakes on the project.

Marietta City Council authorized an injunction Thursday night that prevents Oriana House Inc. from opening a drug-treatment facility at the former Woman's Home located at 812 Front Street.

Oriana has already begun proceedings to buy the property with the hope of establishing a residential treatment facility and offices there.

But, according to city council, the organization has not gone through the correct process with the city to open the facility.

"The city council passed a resolution authorizing the law director of the city of Marietta to go out and have an injunction issued against Oriana House to continue the drug rehab center on 3rd street," said First Ward Councilman Michael Scales.

The property is within feet of St. Mary Catholic Elementary School. Many parents attended Thursday night's council meeting and said they are all for a drug-rehab facility, just not in that location.

Keep checking the WTAP App and WTAP.com for the latest details.