August 1, 2018


By Neal A. Shipman
Farmer Editor

Last week, the McKenzie County Commissioners turned down a Planned Unit Development (PUD) proposal by Summit Counseling that would have converted a former workforce housing facility southwest of Alexander into an alcohol and drug treatment facility. The county commissioners’ decision follows similar earlier actions by the Alex Township Board and the McKenzie County Planning and Zoning Commission.
Obviously to the people who saw the development of a drug and alcohol treatment facility in McKenzie County as a positive step forward in being able to help those who want to beat their additions, the decision by the county commissioners was a major disappointment.
But in reality, when it came to this particular application by Summit Counseling, none of the three governing bodies, who voted to deny the PUD were opposed to the creation of a drug and alcohol treatment facility. In fact, many of the members of those boards spoke strongly in favor of the need of such a facility in western North Dakota.
The problem with Summit Counseling’s PUD was that it ran completely against the comprehensive zoning plan that was adopted by McKenzie County. The land that Summit Counseling wanted to use was zoned for agricultural use. The former owner of the building, which Summit Counseling wanted to convert to a rehab center, had been granted a Conditional Use Permit to construct a workforce housing facility. One of the stipulations of that permit was that the building had to be removed when it was no longer used for workforce housing.
It was those two primary factors, not whether or not an alcohol and drug treatment facility was needed, that drove the Alex Township Board, the county planning and zoning commission, as well as the McKenzie County Commissioners, to ultimately deny Summit Counseling’s application.
Like so many others, I am disappointed that an alcohol and drug treatment center isn’t in the immediate future for McKenzie County.  Having such a facility in western North Dakota that would help people beat their alcohol or drug addiction and help those afflicted would have been a tremendous asset.
The one good thing that has come out of Summit Counseling’s proposal to open an alcohol and drug treatment facility is that it started a community dialogue about the positive impacts that such a facility would have on the lives of those that live here. And that is a discussion that shouldn’t go away.
Summit Counseling is no doubt bitter to have been denied by the three governing boards and not being able to proceed with their initial plans. Hopefully they will not write off finding a location in the county that will fit their needs and budget.
Likewise, hopefully there are people who see the need for such a facility and they will reach out to Summit Counseling to help them make this project a reality.