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Council hears steps for Brandi’s Legacy

Marietta City Law Director Paul Bertram explained Tuesday that only one procedural step must be taken to continue the service of housing for women and their children as the adult clients work through recovery from addiction with 24-hour staffed supervision, in-building counseling and the wrap-around social service support to teach life skills for self-sufficiency after treatment.

Bertram explained that the Washington County Behavioral Health Board, which has owned 812 Fifth St. since 2014, must complete a special use permit application to the city’s planning commission to finalize the paperwork for use already granted by reasonable accommodation through Marietta City Council.

He outlined the legal terms of “de jure” versus “de facto” as the disparity which as of yet is operational under a legal fiction, while explaining the next procedural steps to the Times and Marietta City Council’s Planning, Zoning, Annexation and Housing Chairman Geoff Schenkel on Tuesday, following Schenkel’s committee meeting.

A legal fiction, Bertram explained, makes right where conflict exists between laws, or where law does not specifically outline a procedure.

In this case, aged city zoning ordinances do not specifically define residential treatment for addiction, nor do they identify protected class accommodations as outlined by federal fair housing laws.

So the fiction, Bertram described, in this terminology refers to the assumption made legally to achieve justice in effect, or “de facto.”

If the singular step of completing the special use permitting process through an application to and grant of the permit by the city planning commission is completed, then what is at present “de facto” becomes “de jure,” or rightfully complete, with rightful entitlement, he said.

It simply completes a step of authorization that must be granted because how the ordinance passed on Nov. 5, 2015, to grant reasonable accommodation was worded, while the city lacks updated zoning codes.

Bertram explained that by the argument of fair housing and protected classes, the planning commission’s approval is a formality, not especially open for debate or dismissal, but still one which must be completed.

Therefore, if both the behavioral health board and the appointed representative of Brandi’s Legacy, or the Medicaid-paid residential center’s parent nonprofit, jointly apply through the city engineering office for a special use permit to the city planning commission, then the procedures to reach “de jure” and remove the legal fiction will be complete upon the conclusion of a scheduled planning commission hearing to grant the permit.

Then, the temporary rehousing of residents of Brandi’s Legacy, for women, pregnant women and mothers working through stages of counseling and addiction services for the past 14 months out of 1417 Lancaster St., in Warren Township, would be lawful, Bertram explained.

As would, he concurred, licensed residential addiction treatment thereafter for that location, as granted by the 2015 accommodation.

Washington County Behavioral Health Board Executive Director David Browne and Tim Craft, director of business development for Brandi’s Legacy, requested from council members present in Schenkel’s committee Tuesday answers as to the procedure that would impact whether the nonprofit can continue to house women working through recovery.

Browne and Craft explained that upon completion of the women’s residential treatment center lease for 1417 Lancaster St., Marietta (outside of the city corporation limits, located within the boundaries of Warren Township) at the close of September, the Medicaid faith-based treatment program, licensed through the state may be forced to close up shop if not allowed to move into the 812 Fifth St. location.

Browne said the parent company of the Medicaid-funded program, had approached his board with the need to find a new location after new lease agreements could not be reached and, Browne said, the nonprofit voiced a need for approximately $20,000 to continue operation in Warren Township.

When Brandi’s Legacy opened in July of 2019, the services described to not only Washington County Common Pleas Judge Mark Kerenyi, but also Marietta Municipal Court Probation Officer Melanie Ferrell outlined that over a client’s three-to-six month stay, the woman would undergo counseling services on-site including group and family counseling as they live in the 24-hour staffed home with a shared dining room, kitchen, offices and living room.

“That same use would be perfectly suited in the Fifth Street building I toured last week,” explained Schenkel.

Brandi Craft, the local facility’s namesake, is the deceased sister of Tim Craft, who lost her life on April 6, 2013, from an accidental overdose.

Craft explained to council Tuesday that since the facility opened, multiple women have successfully completed the program with support to allow for babies born during their stay to be born without addiction to harmful substances.

Both Councilman Bill Gossett, who noted he has personally seen the negative impacts of addiction on people he cares about, and veteran Councilman Mike McCauley, who is the only remaining council member who was on the legislative body at the time of the original accommodation granting, voiced absolute support for the women’s facility to move into the 812 Fifth St. location.

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