“This deserves a lot of discussion”
Is Crested Butte a good place for a drug and alcohol recovery center? More specifically, is the T-Zone on the east side of town a good location? That is the question the town wants discussed very publicly before amending town zoning codes to allow such a use.
According to a town memo, the use would be technically classified as a “Residential Care/Assisted Living Use.” Under the plan from Kunes, the recovery center would be named “Adam’s House” and as many as 12 men at a time who are recovering from substance addiction and abuse would utilize the facility.
There would be an on-site director and participants would live in the facility from three months to a year. They would need to have jobs and adhere to a strict zero-tolerance drug and alcohol policy. The house would be modeled after a similar facility in Carbondale.
Crested Butte building and zoning director Bob Gillie saw a hot issue when the proposal crossed his desk. “My goal is to get a lot of discussion about this project out in the public,” Gillie told the Town Council Monday evening. “We need to have a transparent discussion about the impacts this type of facility entails and make sure all the questions out there can be answered. I anticipate a lot of questions and an ongoing discussion and want everyone to have an opportunity to address the issue.”
Kunes explained to the council that in his 19 years in Crested Butte, he has spent a lot of time ministering to drug and alcohol issues. “This is seen as a safe place for those trying to recover from their addiction,” Kunes explained. “We are asking to be considered for a residential transitional living facility. It will be a place that allows recovering addicts, who are pretty far along in their recovery, to get used to the daily routines of life. Our phase would be helping people back into the community.”
Kunes said the plan would be to accept people from all over the country, but not felons or those coming out of penitentiaries. “We would carefully screen the people,” he promised. “The facility in Carbondale has more need than facilities so the people would be coming from more than just here.”
Councilman Skip Berkshire asked if bringing a recovering addict to an extreme place like Crested Butte, where it could be snowing and minus 20 degrees, is a good idea.
“We would address that in the interview process and make sure it didn’t add to their stress,” said Kunes.
When asked by Berkshire, Kunes admitted the program would be open to people of all religious backgrounds but would be a “faith-based” program. “Our desire is to minister to anyone who has the need, as long as they understand what they are coming into,” he said. “We would use the traditional 12-step curriculum and a faith-based program.”
Mayor Alan Bernholtz asked if Kunes had addressed the issue with his neighbors. Kunes said he had spoken to many, but not all, of them. “I have tried to assure them that I believe the risk is less than what is going on in the community,” said Kunes. “This will be a contained group of people who have been screened and are under strict rules. As an example, in Carbondale, the facility has been there three years and it’s been very safe and a positive impact on the community.”
“So these would be the right kind of people you would bring to town,” Bernholtz added, to chuckles.
Neighbor Kevin Reinert owns the Elizabeth Anne bed and breakfast near the proposed sight. “I came to listen tonight and I have spoken with Jim,” he said. “I hope everyone can take some time and think about this. My business will be right in the middle of it and I feel like right now there are too many uncertainties. I can’t say if it will be good or bad. But after five-and-a-half years in business we are still struggling and I can’t see this helping. Let’s all take our time and think about this.”
Kunes agreed. “This is the beginning of the process. I understand and agree that an open discussion is good,” he said. “I think Kevin has a legitimate concern.”
Another lodge owner in the neighborhood, Martin Catmur of the Cristiana Guesthaus, had a different take. “I think we have faith in Jim’s abilities and I actually see it as a good source of employees. We are having trouble finding good workers and this could actually be a good benefit. You know what you are getting when you hire them, which isn’t always the case.”
Crested Butte’s chief marshal, Tom Martin, said he had heard about the proposal months ago. “When you first hear about it, it is a bit overwhelming,” he admitted. “But as I processed it more, I became more comfortable with the idea. I too have faith in Jim Kunes. But what is the relapse rate for a level-four facility like this?”
Kunes said he didn’t have specific figures, “but faith-based programs usually have a greater success rate.”
Neighbor Chris Tippie said the town should look deeper into the situation. “It’s a noble deed but would you be willing to limit to people from our community?”
“I’m amenable to anything,” responded Kunes, “but the reality is that such a limitation won’t probably work. I am trying to understand the fear. We need to study what the people around the facility will be afraid of.”
Bernholtz explained that this would be a big decision for the Town Council. He asked the staff to conduct some research on the ramifications of such facilities. He suggested holding another public meeting to address the issues.
The staff agreed to proceed in that direction, but no meeting date was set for the next discussion.