Board rejects rehab center plan

Supervisors turned down the proposal because of the remoteness of the location, among other concerns

bcuddy@thetribunenews.comAugust 3, 2011 

A rehabilitation center for wealthy clients proposed for the Carrizo Plain was shot down unanimously Tuesday by the Board of Supervisors.

Developer Kenneth Tab said he would come back with a smaller proposal.

Tab, president of the California Serengeti Corp., had proposed a 100-bed rehabilitation and residential-care facility in California Valley. The 137,000-square-foot center would have been built on 15 acres of a 487-acre parcel on the east side of Soda Lake Road, approximately a mile and a half from Highway 58.

It would have included 24 employee apartments, meeting rooms, a dining and reception area, a gym, pool and spa facilities, ponds, an outdoor pavilion and storage.

Tab told supervisors he hoped to bring in clients who would pay tens of thousands of dollars a month.

He said they would be folks seeking to recover from drug or alcohol addiction, as well as people afflicted by other troubles, such as depression or obesity.

The size of the project together with its remoteness gave planners and supervisors a multitude of reasons to turn down Tab.

They said police officers, firefighters and ambulance personnel could not respond quickly to emergencies because the proposed center would be 45 minutes or more away from the nearest services.

In addition, they said, the center would compete for scarce water and is out of character with surrounding land uses, which are largely cattle grazing and dry land farming. Tab has said agriculture on the plain is not as robust as the county says, adding that many of the farmers on the plain receive federal subsidies.

There also was concern that Tab’s project could damage the kit fox habitat in the area.

That led to criticism from long-time Carrizo Plain resident David Webb, who asked how two giant solar facilities could receive the go-ahead, as they did earlier this year, while Tab was shot down. “The kit fox is really important when it comes to Mr. Tab’s project,” Webb said.

Resident Susan Warren supported Tab’s proposal because the county lacks places where addicts and others can rehabilitate themselves.

Warren said she realized that Tab’s rehab center would draw only high-income clients. However, she said, when they get clean those clients sometimes donate money to other rehab facilities.

Supervisor Adam Hill said it would be good if actress Lindsay Lohan, for example, worked past her problems then donated money to local rehab facilities. However, he said, he doubted that was going to happen.

Warren also said Tab was being treated differently from some favored county applicants, such as those who own wineries.

“If this was a winery, would it have taken this many years?” she asked.

Warren’s last remark was a reference to the fact that Tab began applying for the center in 2003. Supervisor Bruce Gibson and Jim Patterson rejected the notion that county planners had been dawdling. They placed the blame with Tab, who, they said, has missed deadlines and failed to provide required documents.

That long timeline led Tab to ask if he could amend his current plan rather than start all over again. He said he had already sunk half a million dollars into the proposal. He actually handed supervisors a scaled-down plan Tuesday.

However, senior planner Warren Hoag objected, telling supervisors that “the initial application fee has been used up.” Gibson pointed out that “the amount of (staff) time this has taken” has already been a lot.

Supervisors told Tab to go back to square one, including a pre-application meeting with county staff.

Hill said, “we do need rehab,” but told Tab to “see what clearly can be accomplished.”

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