Zoning board approves permit for sober living home during contested meeting


People in the audience of the Zanesville Board of Zoning Appeals who wished to speak during the meeting stand to take an oath.

By Jessica Johnston, Assistant News Director

An emotional crowd of people with opinions split between founding a new sober-living house and not wanting to disrupt an already deteriorating historic district gathered Thursday evening to voice their opinions about the future of a building located in the Putnam Historic District.

The Zanesville Board of Zoning Appeals reconvened Thursday evening after the applicant had postponed the same meeting that took place on Jan. 10. During the last meeting, the applicant decided to table the meeting until more information regarding the intent with the property located at 216 Hazlett Ct. could be submitted.

A man representing Lifebridge Ohio, the company that currently owns the property at stake, was amongst the crowd at Thursday evening’s meeting. Maintaining a neutral stance, unlike most people in the audience, the man stated that four restaurants to date have failed inside the building and there is little interest in the property by groups disassociated with substance recovery.

The purpose of the house, as presented by Cairn Recovery Resources, is to provide a housing arrangement for men who have completed drug or alcohol treatment to keep them in a safe environment while also providing resources for the men to help them embark upon a second chance in society.

  • Also read: Recovery Organization sets eyes on Putnam for housing unit pending zoning approval

Services provided by the facility, which will have 24-hour staffing, will include programming to help men remain clean and sober while also gaining life skills such as seeking employment and finding stable housing.

Cody Cain of Cairn said the goal is to return sons to their mothers, return husbands to their wives and fathers to their children. In order to successfully do that, Cairn plans to help non-violent, non-sex offense convicted men reintegrate into society as good neighbors.

While each person that spoke during the meeting did not disagree that similar services to Cairn are needed in the community, many current residents or visitors of the Putnam area disagreed with the recovery organization stating that the house was not set in an appropriate area.

“We’re not against recovery. The Friends of Putnam are not against recovery. We’re not against homelessness. We’re trying to make sure that the people that come in to do this are going to do it the right way and we did not feel that… in our meetings, they did not fit the criteria we expected for a business to come in,” Friends of Putnam member Chris Gookin said following the meeting. 

With two alcohol-serving establishments positioned directly across the street from the intended recovery house, Friends of Putnam member Nicole Dickerson stated during the meeting that the organization was exercising poor judgment by opening a recovery house in that location.

Echoing others’ points by focusing on the history of the neighborhood, historian Dave Willie addressed the board to state many people visit the Putnam Historic District for its history. While other facilities like Cairn have been approved in the area, such as the Schultz Mansion, Willie stated that the city continues to approve permits for properties that are not harmonious for the neighborhood.

The board listened to each persons’ opinion of the properties proposed use, although member Pat O’Brien reiterated throughout the over two-hour-long meeting that the board was simply tasked with deciding whether the intended use would be harmonious and compatible with the surrounding area.

Arguments from both sides of the issues were heard before the board voted on the special use permit.

With a two to three vote in favor of granting the permit, Cairn Recovery Resources will continue with its plans to open the sober living home.

“We’re excited. We’re grateful that the zoning authority was able to see the great need and also our ability to help out in the Putnam area,” Cain said. “We’re excited to go ahead and go through the application process and start services there as soon as possible.”

Despite the outcome, people on both sides of the issue were congratulating Cairn founders following the meeting, although not everyone was pleased with the outcome.

“It’s unfortunate that it was passed, but we are more than willing to work with Cairn to be able to help them succeed because, in order for us to be successful as the Friends of Putnam, they have to be successful,” Gookin said.

Cain echoed Gookin’s point stating that the Cairn staff is excited to move forward but will keep open lines of communication to help put concerned locals’ minds at ease.

“We’re prepared to do whatever we can to appease the Zanesville community and ease their fears and time will tell that what we’re doing is the right thing to do in the right place at the right time,” Cain said.

Cairn is hoping to begin accepting applicants into the home as early as spring 2020 pending the completion of inspections and updates to the facility.