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Bunnell Planning Board Approves Ordinance Targeting Bible Half-Way House For Addicts

| June 18, 2014

A rehabilitation ministry for former addicts that looks to operate in Bunnell is modeled after Kentucky-based Freinds of Sinners, which has 25 people in its residential program currently. The founder of Friends of Sinners would also run the Bunnell ministry, with local pastor Charles Silano. (Friends of Sinners)

A rehabilitation ministry for former addicts that looks to operate in Bunnell is modeled after Kentucky-based Freinds of Sinners, which has 25 people in its residential program currently. The founder of Friends of Sinners would also run the Bunnell ministry, with local pastor Charles Silano. (Friends of Sinners)

Bunnell’s planning board Wednesday evening unanimously approved a controversial ordinance designed to keep a Bible-based prison rehabilitation program from operating in South Bunnell, where the community has risen up against it. The measure next moves to the Bunnell City Commission for final approval.

Bunnell and  Open Door Re-Entry and Recovery Ministry are locked in a federal court battle over the location of Open Door’s rehabilitation center at 309 East Booe Street, a former mosque and church that never had an issue there, until Open Door bought it for $21,600 last fall.

The local face of the ministry is Charles Silano, a pastor, an ex-convict and the head of Grace Tabernacle Ministries and Grace Community Food Pantry, who for years has won only plaudits from communities and local government agencies for his various social works. Silano is working in association with a Kentucky-based ministry that operates a similar evangelical rehab center there. Silano presented his plan to the Flagler County Public Safety Coordinating Council in October. The council, including the sheriff and the senior circuit judge in Flagler, endorsed the plan.

But Silano’s group almost immediately triggered resistance among Bunnell residents and non-residents—such as Pastor Sims Jones—who objected to the center on safety grounds. In fairness to the objectors, Silano’s plan as presented to the coordinating council lacked clarity regarding safety measures, and Silano never laid the groundwork with the neighborhood affected in South Bunnell to lessen fears and emphasize the rehabilitation center’s aims. So the issue quickly degraded into a conflict, first at planning board and city commission meetings, then in federal district court.

The city commission first passed a moratorium on any such rehabilitation centers, which led to the lawsuit. Then it put in motion the workings of a new ordinance that would address such rehabilitation centers. The ordinance was first proposed last spring but had to be tabled, because it appeared to be too broadly targeting all sorts of rehabilitation centers. The ordinance submitted to the Bunnell Planning, Zoning and Appeals board Wednesday was more carefully crafted.

“It was decided from a legal standpoint it was better to focus on residential prison diversion programs” as opposed to residential programs in general, Wade Voss, Bunnell’s city attorney, said. The original moratorium on such programs was focused on both, casting too wide a net.

“The immediate effect of this ordinance would be to supersede and wipe out the moratorium as a whole, the result being that residential prison diversion programs would be regulated under this ordinance,” Voss said.

In its briefing to the planning board, the city administration states that “all references to residential treatment programs have been removed” from the proposed ordinances. That’s not quite the case, except as a matter of semantics that most lay readers would not detect: the ordinance’s title refers directly to “providing regulations for the location and operation of residential prison diversion programs.” In essence, the city reworked the definition of the ordinance—and of residential programs—to more narrowly target Silano’s program, the key words in the ordinance being prison diversion program.

Legally, that risks accentuating Silano’s case in federal court—that Bunnell is discriminating against his program in contravention of federal rules. Mark Langello, a former member of the Bunnell planning board, asked the board at the end of its discussion: “Is the action that you’re proposing tonight hurting or helping any lawsuit?”

The city attorney said he could not  “directly address” the question,” since the matter is in litigation and the city doesn’t want to make statements that could be used against it, or reveal strategic thinking. But, Voss added, “anything that I’m involved in or anything Mick and his department are involved in, are never intended in any way to put us in a disadvantageous position with regard to pending litigation or other concerns.” Mick Cuthbertson is the city’s community development director and the point man on this issue.

Voss could not however  control Don McCalligan, who chairs the zoning board, and who asked a question that, inadvertently, revealed precisely the sort of thinking Silano says is behind the ordinance.

“So what you’re saying in this instance, in English, let’s get down to brass tacks, is he allowed to do that now, or not?”

“Who’s he?” Cuthbertson asked.

“The one that’s going to do this,” McCalligan said, referring to Silano.

The city attorney quickly jumped in to tell McCalligan that that question was not at issue, and that no individual plan could be addressed. But it was too late. McCalligan had put the city’s thinking on the record in a way no legal advice would have countenanced.

The ordinance also increased the distance the diversion program’s building must be from any single-family residence, from 200 feet to 600 feet, making the Booe Street location automatically ineligible. There’s also a prohibition of any such center operating within 1,000 feet of a church, school or child care facility, which also would appear to make the Booe Street location ineligible.

“As a former member of the board I read what you guys have done with it, I was very pleased because you did address the issues we had at the previous meeting,” Mark Langello, a former member of the planning board, told the panel, asking as well about security cameras or making fencing a requirement of such diversion programs.

The ordinance is written broadly enough to enable such things, but not necessarily make them mandatory, as Langello would prefer.

Langello again brought up the matter of targeting a specific organization, raising concerns about the potential legal fallout.

“There are legal concerns with regard to attempting to attempting to regulate facilities that focus solely on folks living together and that are seeking to overcome alcoholism or overcome drug addiction and so on, and ultimately because of these legal concerns it seemed advisable at the time to focus the object of the ordinance on that area that seemed to present the most concerns with the least legal effect.”

But it was difficult to see how the resulting ordinance addressed rather than underscored those concerns.

The proposed ordinance appears below.

Bunnell’s Prison Rehabilitation House Ordinance

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14 Responses for “Bunnell Planning Board Approves Ordinance Targeting Bible Half-Way House For Addicts”

  1. confidential says:

    Good cause on a no so good location!
    What about helping Pastor Silano to find a different location for his helping good endevour?

  2. Mondo says:

    Mr Langello please let these fine folks move into your place up on US 1 when the City moves out.
    I think you can still keep your tax exempt status then!

  3. Concerned Citizen says:

    Well then. You are an outcast if you have an alcohol of drug problem so let’s get every county to do this collectively across the United States and whala, we have no grace, no mercy, no forgiveness for the sinner Jesus died to save by Grace and let us put them on an island and then stone them to death if they don’t work hard enough in the rock quarry to compensate for their sin. I’m kidding, of course.

    But seriously, where does any hope of rehabilitation through forgiveness take place then? It is the quintessential mystery of religion’s rules instead of relationship, isn’t it? That’s what I love about Jesus. His grace restores us. His kindness to what we mere mortals call the the adulterer and the whore is what truly changes a man’s heart. And not a one of us is not guilty of the hypocrisies at times. Most certainly myself included. :-)

  4. Pastor Sims Jones says:

    The community has spoken and now the planning board has ruled, keep it out of our community. why are you trying to force it down the throat of the community that doesn’t want it. move it some place else.

    • Bill Hazz says:

      Pastor Sims Jones; I am very curious as to why a “pastor” would be so openly against this?

      Are you an Ordained minister or, what specifically entitles you to refer to yourself as “pastor?” Any formal education in your background regarding our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ?

      I can understand the City of Bunnell residents playing the “Not In My Back Yard” card, but am puzzled with your position. Could you clarify it, please?

      • jennifer Lopez says:

        Bill Hazz why don’t you take your friends to City of Palm Coast, and see what happens there, or even Flagler Beach for that matter. Bunnell especially doesn’t need this kind of place in any of their neighborhood especially that one.

  5. Obama 2014 says:

    Jesus saves! Just not in Bunnell.

  6. Steve Carter says:

    How ironic that a Bible-based prison rehabilitation program would not be allowed within 1000 feet of a church.

  7. A.S.F. says:

    I think that one of the problems that people were having with this plan is that it would locate the facility within a known drug infested area…not a good idea. Any person with addiction experience would tell you that addicts need to stay away from “people, places and things” related to their addiction. Also, the security issue is a very valid concern for anyone living in that neck of the woods, since there will not be a lot of intense in-house supervision going on, according to prior reports about the proposed plan.Also, I don’t recall off-hand– What were the requirements for prosed residents supposed to be in regards to work and participation in accredited treatment programs?

  8. Max Awesomeness says:

    You would think that an area so beheld with the conservative view would embrace a group founded to help those with problems such as these, especially a group that espouses with the very faith that the republican party claims to be based upon.

    • Nancy N. says:

      No, conservatives believe people such as these are unclean and evil and need to be purged from society. “War on drugs” ring a bell? They think they should be locked up, not helped.

  9. Pastor Sims Jones says:

    Bill Hazz, I am an Ordained minister, and i have been a pastor for many years. When you start telling people what to do without them having a say, you are treating them like they don’t matter. God work with the people, listened to them and there needs. He didn’t tell them there needs. he helped them for fill them. I like the program but not where they want to put it. God listened to man when man prayed to him. Why can’t people listen the the community when the community speaks to them. I may not live in bunnell, the church God blessed to pastor is in bunnell, and the church should be concerned with the things going on in the community the church is in. So bill hazz may God bless you to.

  10. jennifer Lopez says:

    This may and council are bunch of block heads , we need rate ables , something that the city will make money off of, this will be a bunch of ex drug heads and they families.
    When are you people going to learn that this city is in bad shape and you need help.

  11. wolley segap says:

    Let’s not forget there are crimes associated with the people to be placed in such a program…..its not just about the addiction. Its a place to be housed in lieu of going to jail. Stick that on your street where your kids play and see if you’re happy with it…Don’t cast blame on those in Bunnell who don’t want it on their street…to do so is surely hypocritical.

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