Pulaski officials to express opposition to state
By MELINDA WILLIAMS
Pulaski officials will express opposition to a proposed “methadone clinic,” but doubt there is much they can do to stop it from locating in Pulaski Mall.
Pulaski Town Manager John Hawley said the town received a letter from Virginia Department of Health and Developmental Services in December indicating Gary Gavornik of Easton, Pa. filed for a license to operate an “opioid treatment center.” It would be in the store adjacent to Save-A-Lot and was formerly occupied by Pulaski Drugs and New River Valley Community Services.
The clinics dispense medications, including methadone, to persons with addictions to opiate drugs such as heroine and pain relievers like OxyContin, morphine, Dilaudid and Percocet, with the goal of weaning the person off drugs.
Hawley said the town has been trying to determine whether it has any recourse, but “we’ve checked and as far as we know it meet’s the requirements.”
The town government does have a right to comment on the proposal, but he said he doesn’t know how much weight the comments will have in the process.
“They just said we could comment,” he said.
The property is zoned B-2, General Business, which allows medical clinics as a “use by right.” If the zoning ordinance required that medical clinics be allowed by “special exception,” the town would have more control over the matter since it would be able to place conditions beyond what is required by the ordinance.
It also appears to meet required distances from schools and licensed day care facilities, according to Hawley. He said there is some question as to whether it must be half a mile from these facilities by road or “as the crow flies.” That’s being looked into further.
A building permit was requested for a commercial rehabilitation of the store in October. He said there are no grounds to deny the facility under the building code as long as all code requirements are met.
Hawley said Pulaski Town Council carefully weighed the pros and cons of the clinic before deciding how to respond.
“There are pros. It is controlled treatment and there would be less travel for those receiving treatment,” he said. “But council believes the cons outweigh the pros.”
Therefore, town staff has been directed to draft a letter to send to the Department of Health and Developmental Services expressing opposition to the clinic.
He declined to be specific about what would be in the letter. He intends to have it completed to send to the state on Friday.
“Our goal is to put together something that will get their attention,” he said, explaining that the town is trying to make a convincing argument as to why the clinic would be bad for the town.
The town did inquire as to the impact of such clinics on other communities that have them, but Hawley said the response was mixed.
“It depended on who you talked to,” he said, explaining that one person in a jurisdiction might have one opinion and another have an opinion that is the polar opposite.
Hawley indicated it is his understanding licenses are granted conditionally for six months to start. He wasn’t sure how frequently renewal is required, but did note that the clinics have to meet certain guidelines to stay open.
Pulaski Mall is owned by RAS Properties, which is owned by Robert Strenz, a former member of Pulaski’s Redevelopment and Housing Authority.
Nearby jurisdictions with methadone clinics include Roanoke and Galax. Galax has two.
Since the town hasn’t seen the licensing application, Hawley said he doesn’t know when it plans to open if the license is approved.