Washburn homeowners want alternative recovery center location

Neighbors hope extra time will help

La Crosse homeowners are worried about the placement of an addiction recovery center in the Washburn neighborhood.

Mayo Clinic Health System formed a lease agreement with Coulee Council on Addictions to build a recovery center at Ninth and Ferry Streets.

The lot is located in the Washburn neighborhood, a focus of revitalization efforts including the La Crosse Promise.

The planned recovery center is behind the homes a few neighbors, including Celine Donofrio.

While she supports the recovery center’s mission, she and other neighbors said they believe there are better locations for it.

Donofrio and her family moved into their La Crosse Promise home on Ninth Street about a year ago. She and her neighbors often gather in the space behind their houses, where there are Mayo Clinic Health System-sponsored gardens and a vermicomposting center.

“In this little green space, things are popping, things are happening here,” she said.

Now they’re worried that their spot and the revitalization efforts in their neighborhood are jeopardy with the planned Coulee Recovery Center on the site behind their homes.

“My worry is that we have not been involved in the process even though we’re feet from the new building,” Donofrio said. “Our back doors will now have an institution that has meetings day and night and cars coming and going. It’s a safety issue, nothing to do what’s happening in the building.”

This site is also just about a block or two away from Lincoln Middle School.

Neighbors have worries about children’s safety, but Hancock said seeing those with addictions seeking help is a good example.

Donofrio thinks other location options such as Mayo parking lots should be discussed, but executive director of Coulee Council on Addictions Cheryl Hancock said they looked at other sites and this makes the most sense.

“And that was the site that made the most sense with the least amount of disruption,” Hancock said. “This is a space available. Mayo is giving us a very good deal–a dollar a year for the site.”

Donofrio said neighbors found out about the project about two weeks ago.

Hancock said several efforts were made to include neighbors.

“We were acting on a very tight timeline, and we acknowledge that we are learning from that,” she said.

Hancock plans to meet with neighbors in the coming weeks.

The project’s rezoning was to be voted on Aug. 10, but a city meeting procedure error discovered Thursday is buying neighbors 30 extra days to state their case.

“The ball was rolling so fast we could barely catch up,” Donofrio said. “That’s some breathing space yeah.”

The procedural error came when a city meeting was pushed back one day to accommodate National Night Out, meaning public notice was one day short of the week required, according to Deputy City Clerk Nikki Elsen.

Now the City Council plans to refer the project 30 days forward.

Hancock said that could push back construction into winter, which would raise costs.