Proposed addiction treatment center won’t be in Refuge Chapel building

Proposed addiction treatment center won’t be in Refuge Chapel building

Editor’s Note: This article has been updated to reflect that resident Frank Griswold gave the City of Homer notice of intent to appeal an Advisory Planning Commission decision, as well as submitted an official appeal.

A long-debated addiction treatment facility originally planned for downtown Homer will move to a new location after a local resident appealed the conditional use permit that would have allowed it and the organization withdrew its permit application.

Set Free Alaska, a religious nonprofit that runs an inpatient addiction treatment center in the Matanuska-Susitna Valley, has been planning to bring a similar facility to Homer. It would house more than a dozen clients and serve as an inpatient treatment program for men, as well as provide outpatient resources for women.

The organization won a grant from the state of Alaska for $1.5 million to help create the facility. Executive Director Phillip Licht has estimated the project will cost about $3.2 million. The Homer City Council debated over the course of several weeks whether to provide matching funds for the project, but ultimately decided against it.

Set Free Alaska planned to renovate a section of the building on Pioneer Avenue that currently houses the Refuge Chapel. A conditional use permit that would allow this was approved by the planning commission at its April 17 meeting in a 6-1 vote.

The permit was applied for under Homer city code as a group care home in the Central Business District, according to a planning commission meeting packet. City staff found that the proposed use of the building by Set Free Alaska fit within city zoning code.

“The purpose of the Central Business District includes providing a mixture of residential and nonresidential uses, and professional services,” staff wrote in their findings. “The proposal is compatible with the purpose of the district as it combines a residence with professional services.”

In his staff report to the planning commission at their May 15 meeting, City Planner Rick Abboud notified commission members that the city had gotten a notice of intent to appeal the decision on the conditional use permit that had been approved in April. Abboud got an email from resident Frank Griswold, who over the years has filed several court cases against the city for various zoning issues, asking Abboud to notify him “if/when a Zoning Permit is issued for new construction at 397 E Pioneer Avenue so that I may timely exercise my appeal rights.”

Griswold submitted his appeal on May 6.

In response, Set Free Alaska withdrew its application to renovate that building.

“We believe it is within our legal right to pursue this project as is, in this current location. We also agree with the Planning Commission’s decision issuing this permit,” Licht wrote in a letter to the city. “Our organization has a core value of ‘being a blessing and servant to our community.’ It was not our intention that this project would cause problems for neighbors or community members leading to additional time and expense to the City of Homer. This project being appealed at the time and expense of the city violates one of our core values. Furthermore, our leadership team and key stakeholders are concerned about the potential time delays and hassles associated with this appeal process.”

In an email, Licht said Set Free Alaska has not yet settled on a new location, but is close to a decision.

Reach Megan Pacer at

More in News

Alaska State Troopers logo.
Anchor Point house fire leaves one dead, one in serious condition

The cause of the fire is under investigation.

Snow and debris from an avalanche can be seen near Mile 45 on the Seward Highway on Monday, March 29, 2021. (Photo courtesy Goldie Shealy)
Center promotes avalanche awareness

The Chugach Avalanche Center in Girdwood will begin its daily forecasts Saturday.

Commercial fishing and other boats are moored in the Homer Harbor in this file photo. (Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News)
Seawatch: Historic sockeye run predicted for Bristol Bay

ADF&G says 2022 run could break this year’s record

The entrance to the Mendenhall Glacier Recreation Area in the Tongass National Forest was covered in snow on Friday, Nov. 19, 2021, a day after federal authorities announced the next step in restoring the 2001 Roadless Rule on the forest. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)
Feds put freeze on Roadless Rule rollback

On the Roadless Rule again.

Alaska man pleads not guilty to threatening 2 US senators

If convicted, he could face a maximum sentence of 50 years in prison.

Commercial fishing vessels are seen here on the Kenai River on July 10, 2020. (Photo by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion)
Fishing industry takes a hit during pandemic

Overall fish harvesting jobs in Alaska dropped by the widest margin since 2000 — 14.1% — in 2020.

FILE - The Olympic rings stand atop a sign at the entrance to the Squaw Valley Ski Resort in Olympic Valley, Calif., on July 8, 2020. U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland on Friday, Nov. 19, 2021, declared "squaw" to be a derogatory term and said she is taking steps to remove the term from federal government use and to replace other derogatory place names. The popular California ski resort changed its name to Palisades Tahoe earlier this year. (AP Photo/Haven Daley, File)
Interior secretary seeks to rid U.S. of derogatory place names

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland on Friday formally declared… Continue reading

Most Read