Gurwood Street residents voice strong concerns about Riverina Recovery House at council forum

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Council staff are set to recommend councillors approve a controversial drug recovery house, despite fierce opposition from neighbours.

About 50 people packed the public gallery at Monday night’s planning and policy forum at the council chambers, with both sides presenting their case to councillors. But it was the strong objection from Gurwood Street resident Sally Longmore that saw the gallery erupt into applause.

Ms Longmore said there was an increased risk of drug-related activity if the facility went ahead, citing a report from Wagga police.

“There’s very clear and strong evidence that most people hold the common sense view that a drug and alcohol recovery facility is not suited to a residential area in close proximity to schools and parks,” she said.

“For the recovering addict, is the temptation of having several licensed premises nearby appropriate?”

Council received more than 30 submissions opposed to turning the former bed and breakfast into a drug treatment facility, covering concerns ranging from property values to safety. 

Amos Hee, who had worked with potential operators “The Sanctuary Byron Bay”, said fear was the biggest issue for neighbours.

"I acknowledge the real fear , but it’s founded on bigotry and prejudice,” Mr Hee said. “It’s based on a fear of criminals… but addiction is not a moral failing.”

However, Mr Hee’s tale of experiencing bigotry as a man of Asian decent in a same-sex relationship drew unrest from the public gallery.

While both sides attempted to sway councillors before the matter appeared at next week’s general meeting, assessment officer Cameron Collins confirmed the staff recommendation was to approve the development application. 

It’s the third attempt at building such a facility for Debbie Cox, who told The Daily Advertiser before the meeting that neighbours had nothing to fear.

“I would not even entertain the thought of putting anyone in danger,” Mrs Cox said. 

More than 60 per cent of readers polled said they would not choose to live near a rehab house.