County blocks expansion of Wine Country drug rehab facility

A unified Board of Supervisors ignored the recommendation of its Planning Commission in voting for denial.

The big guns got the job done.

The Riverside County Board of Supervisors this week ignored the advice of its Planning Commission by voting to reject an application from a 6-bed drug and alcohol rehab facility in Wine Country that wanted to expand its operations.

The commission voted in January to recommend approval of the application, which sought permission to add 10 more beds at the gated residence that is being used as a rehab facility and hire new staffers to handle additional clients.

The supervisors’ decision, a 5-0 vote, was considered a victory for a heavy-hitting coalition of winery owners, real estate professionals and neighboring residents that opposed the expansion plans on grounds that large rehab facilities — smaller facilities are allowed by right in residential zones because the inhabitants are considered by the state to be a protected class — should not be allowed in Wine Country.

The facility, which opened in January of 2016, is located at 36500 De Portola Road in a 7,384 square-foot home that sits on a 10.4 acre lot. It is run by the Southern California Addiction Center, which operates similar facilities in the region.

During Tuesday’s hearing, the supervisors heard from members of the coalition, who took apart the application piece-by-piece to show why they felt the plans weren’t consistent with the county’s vision for Wine Country, and supporters of the facility, who shared stories of how the owners helped them get their lives on track following epic battles with addiction.

“After the disaster at the Planning Commission, Phil Baily volunteered to set up the presentation points and organized the ‘front’ for the eventual supervisors meeting,” said Danny Martin, president of the Temecula Valley Winegrowers Association. “Our speakers included Audrey Cilurzo (a Wine Country pioneer), Phil Baily, Mike Rennie, Bill Wilson, Dan Stephenson, John Kelliher, Jon McPherson, and Damian Doffo.”

Martin, a real estate appraiser who serves on the board of the Rancho California Water District, praised the county’s decision and said county counsel is working on amending the zoning rules for the area that will prevent future drug facility operators from trying to open similar facilities in the agricultural region.

“It was a relief to win this battle,” he said.

County spokesman Ray Smith said the rehab item will come back to the board on the policy agenda for the final denial with written findings that the board would adopt as its decision.

“That action would then be final. There isn’t an administrative appeal from that decision. Should the applicant want to challenge the board’s decision, it would have to be via court action,” he said in an email.

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