City battling drug rehab center located in Fort Myers neighborhood

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FORT MYERS, Fla.- Residents are taking action against a drug rehab center located in the middle of a quiet neighborhood. The facility is on East Riverside Drive. In the quiet neighborhood lining the Caloosahatche, there’s a controversy brewing.

“Just the terminology “drug rehab” is something that you really don’t want in your neighborhood,” said Bob Nuth, a man living doors down from the facility.

Sovereign Health started running its business behind a few months ago. The company’s website advertises it is a drug rehab facility and offers care in drug and alcohol addiction. The planning manager for the City of Fort Myers says, however, the place doesn’t have approval to offer those kinds of services in a residential area.

“It does have a conditional use for an assistant living facility,” said Nicole DeVaughn, Planning Manager for the City of Fort Myers, “but that doesn’t include drug rehabilitation.”

That’s where the controversy starts. The Director of Development with Sovereign Health told WINK News the city allowed them to open. He says the city instructed him to fill out forms putting them under the category of an assisted living facility, and the city knew Sovereign Health would offer drug rehab. DeVaughn says an assisted living facility isn’t the same as drug rehab center.

“Yes. It is a very big difference,” said the Planning Manager, “and I’m pretty sure the residents around it think that’s a fairly significant difference between the two uses.”

Neighbors we spoke to agree.

“Assisted living is a totally different category,” said Allen Bills, another neighbor.

Nuth, who lives a few doors down told WINK News the clientele is different too.

“The other day, we did have one young gentleman come by here and asked to use the phone because he had been asked to leave the facility,” Nuth said.

The city says if Sovereign does not get the proper zoning permit they’ll be asked to close. Sovereign reps told WINK News they plan to straighten this out Friday in a conference call with the city.

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