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Arthur Morgan House B&B change now off table

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This week the potential change in use of a village bed and breakfast to allow an intervention program for those convicted of drunk driving and other offenses, which had stirred up concern among neighbors, came to a halt when the potential buyer withdrew her conditional use permit application.

The Village Planning Commission, at its Feb. 10 meeting, was scheduled to consider a conditional use request by the Arthur Morgan House, a bed and breakfast at 120 Limestone St., to allow a Driver Intervention Program to operate there under a new owner.

A court-ordered Driver Intervention Program is an alternative to jail for first-time offenders arrested for operating a vehicle while impaired, a citation called an OVI.

While the Arthur Morgan House is an approved bed and breakfast within the Residence B zoning district, the Planning Commission was going to review, and potentially modify, its conditional use permit in light of the new use.

However, on Tuesday of this week the conditional use permit application was pulled.

Lisa Houser-Thomas, a local resident and owner of the Yellow Springs-based Addiction Resource Center Inc., had hoped to purchase the Arthur Morgan House to operate a 72-hour residential program there three of four weekends each month. The rest of the time, during weekdays and on one weekend each month, Houser-Thomas had planned to operate as a typical bed and breakfast.

During the program, which runs Thursday to Sunday, some 8 to 12 participants would learn about the consequences of drug and alcohol abuse and reckless driving through lectures, films and group discussions. They would not be permitted to leave the facility and would be under 24-hour security, according to Houser-Thomas, who already runs the state-certified programs at area hotels in Springfield, Xenia, Fairborn and elsewhere.

Late last year Houser-Thomas was under contract to purchase the Arthur Morgan House Bed & Breakfast from current owner Susanne Oldham, pending its approval as a site for Driver Intervention Programs. Though the facility passed inspection from the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Drug Addiction Services, their contract recently expired while exploring the need for additional local zoning permitting.

Houser-Thomas said this week she withdrew her application because of a negative response from the community. She has not yet decided when, or even if, she would continue to pursue the purchase of the bed and breakfast for Driver Intervention Programs.

Oldham, who has owned and operated the bed and breakfast since 2004, put the Arthur Morgan House up for sale early last year so she could explore opportunities to live and work in Zimbabwe. She wrote in a letter to neighbors last week that the new use would ensure the success of the bed and breakfast, which could suffer from the competition of a new hotel slated to be built on the nearby Barr property.

Several neighbors of the Arthur Morgan House, meanwhile, were organizing this week to convince the Planning Commission to deny the conditional use request. They said that the new program will attract people to their neighborhood that could threaten their safety and that it might harm property values.

But Houser-Thomas said that those required to participate in Driver Intervention Programs are not necessarily alcoholics or drug-addicts but include a more typical cross-section of society due to Ohio’s OVI laws, which were broadened significantly in 2005. The state’s definition of impaired driving now can include the per se laws, which include medications and illicit drugs, especially the use of marijuana and prescription medication or being intoxicated near one’s vehicle while possessing car keys. Distracted driving citations such as texting while driving, falling asleep at the wheel or aggressive driving are now being referred to intervention programs as well, Houser-Thomas explained.

“Because of the recent Ohio law changes legal consequences do not equal alcoholism anymore,” Houser-Thomas said. “They don’t deserve the rap they’re getting. They made a mistake and they usually all feel remorseful.”

While most Driver Intervention Programs cater to groups of 60 to 90 people, Houser-Thomas believes that smaller, more intimate groups, like the size that would fit at a bed and breakfast, are more beneficial for participants. According to Wright State University researcher Harvey Siegel, 62 percent of the people who did not opt for the program and instead went to jail became repeat offenders, while only 20 percent of those who attended Driver Intervention Programs repeated their offense, Houser-Thomas said.

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