Lido Isle residents contest rehab center

Residents on an upscale island in Newport Harbor are contesting a drug-rehabilitation home that has been operating there for the past 10 years.

A lawyer for the Lido Isle Community Assn. sent a letter to the city Friday opposing a proposed agreement with Morningside Recovery, a drug and alcohol recovery operator.

This is the latest wrinkle in the nearly decade-long battle over drug rehabilitation homes in Newport Beach. Homeowners in West Newport have said that their quality of life suffers from the area having too many of the homes, and the city has spent more than $1.5 million fighting lawsuits from rehab home operators who have contested city ordinances. The most contentious ordinance was one from 2008 that forced operators to undergo an extensive public review and permitting process.

Morningside is close to settling its lawsuit with the city; the last step is to have the City Council approve an agreement that limits the number of beds it can operate and where they can be, among other restrictions.

"The idea of clustering the homes down in the beach area is counterproductive to the idea of assimilating people into society," said Neil MacFarlane, a Lido Isle resident and member of Concerned Citizens of Newport Beach, an activist group formed to address the rehab issue.

MacFarlane said he encouraged the Lido Isle Community Assn. to protest Morningside's agreement because it would include the Lido residence, and this would be a good time to challenge the property's role as a rehab home.

Before Morningside, another rehab company was operating in the triplex at the entrance to Lido Isle for the past 10 years. Sober Living by the Sea, which already settled its lawsuit with the city, had been housing recovering addicts there before the stringent 2008 ordinance, so the property was included in its agreement with the city.

Sober Living's lease expired in July, and Morningside is planning to move into the triplex property at 100 and 102 Via Antibes, and 208 Via Lido Soud.

"The city doesn't have a right to just pass on that license to a new operator," said MacFarlane. "This is an opportunity to challenge the whole idea of it being there."

The property's owner, Dan Murphy, said he hasn't received any complaints about the building from the community association since he purchased it in 2004.

"Until a 'magic pill' is invented to cure addictions, these facilities play an important role in a person's return to productive life in our communities," Murphy wrote in a letter to the city.

The City Council was scheduled to vote on the Morningside agreement during tonight's regular council meeting, but the vote was postponed because the city had not reached a tentative agreement with Morningside, said City Atty. David Hunt.

The total number of beds Morningside would be allowed would not change if it operates in this facility, said Hunt, who emphasized that Morningside would be allowed to move into new properties, whether or not the agreement specifically included the Lido building.

"We're trying to achieve the best agreement we can based on public comments and the operating needs of Morningside," said Hunt.

Representatives from Morningside and the Lido Isle Community Assn. did not return calls seeking comment.

The public will have a chance to comment during tonight's regular meeting, which begins at 7 p.m., and again at the Sept. 14 regular council meeting.

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