Somerset Drive, just outside of Bend city limits, is split in two. It is not physically divided in half, but neighbors are torn in opinion by a proposed residential addiction treatment facility slated to open at the southern edge of the street.
Last fall, a majority of neighbors in the Somerset subdivision voted in favor of forming a homeowners association, but some say it’s turned into a weapon that’s being wielded solely in the direction of the proposed rehab facility.
For the Ament family, opening a residential addiction rehab facility is personal, said Michael Ament, the CEO and manager of the proposed facility. Ament’s older brother, Zack, is a recovered addict. He has been sober for 12 years, Ament said.
“My family really supported him and he wanted to get better and not be addicted and trapped in that world,” Ament said.
“What happened in his experience is that he really saw, being in treatment facilities and being in sober living homes, that there was a way to do it better,” Ament said.
While in recovery, Zack Ament met his future husband, who was an addict, Michael Ament said. The two embarked on a mission to open sober living homes and treatment facilities throughout California.
Zack Ament’s husband eventually succumbed to addiction, Michael Ament said. He died in 2019, and he is survived by his husband and their child.
“This is just such a massive crisis that’s touched us that none of us feel like we can sit back and do nothing when we know that we have the confidence and the skill and the resource and the desire to help and to do something about this,” Michael Ament said.
Somerset Drive is a quiet, narrow street on which the majority of the houses in the Somerset subdivision sit. It’s rural, houses are amply spaced apart, it’s well-kept.
The five-acre lot on the southern edge of the street was the perfect location for the Ament’s residential treatment facility. The facility’s 10-15 beds will be targeted toward local working professionals and young adults, Ament said. And the 30 to 90-day treatment programs will place a special emphasis on incorporating outdoor recreation and peer support, he said.
The location is at the intersection of the rural pleasures of Deschutes County and decent access to services in Bend, Ament said.
“It’s a good place to heal and get better,” he said.
But not everyone on Somerset Drive feels the same way.
Gail Webber is the president of the Somerset Homeowners Association and president of the Oregon Adaptive Sports board of directors. She and her husband, Jim, moved to Somerset after retiring from New York in 2016. She is a skier, he is a falconer, and they enjoy the open space, clear views of the Cascades and dark skies of Somerset Drive.
The neighborhood smells like juniper when it rains, and neighbors help each other out when they need it, Webber wrote in an email.
“We have found ourselves in a situation that is not unique to our neighborhood,” she wrote.
Webber recognizes the need for addiction treatment facilities in Central Oregon, but she is worried about the impacts of one in her neighborhood, she said.
“We believe the operation of any commercial facility would bring about a huge change in the character of the neighborhood, and could open the door to other commercial businesses in what was intended to be a single family residential neighborhood,” Webber said.
Earlier this month, the Somerset Homeowners Association, which was formed last year, filed a complaint against the Ament family in Deschutes County Circuit Court.
The complaint alleges the Ament’s facility violates the rules of the homeowners association that were created in the 1970s. Those rules, or protective covenants, prohibit any residence from uses for anything other than a single family dwelling, including commercial activity, the Feb. 18 complaint said.
However, one neighbor, Rich Williams, said that those rules may not even apply to the rehab facility because of a state statue that allows for certain uses in residences, including addiction treatment.
In Central Oregon, nearly 36,500 people reported they had a substance use disorder, a 2022 analysis from two Portland-based universities found.
Only 303 people, or less than 1% of people, in the region received treatment.
In all three Central Oregon counties — Crook, Deschutes and Jefferson — significant gaps were identified in access to qualified mental health professionals, residential detox facilities and recovery residences and community centers, the report found.
Nationally, Oregon ranked in the bottom three for the highest prevalence of substance use disorders in adults, according to data from Mental Health America, a national nonprofit. Oregon also ranks dead last in the nation for prevalence of mental illness, meaning Oregon has the highest rate, according to the data.
Williams sees the need for facilities like the one the Aments are proposing to build in his neighborhood, he said. He would like to see some efforts to mitigate any potential impacts from the facility from the Aments, he said, but he has another overarching concern.
“It’s distressing that it’s dividing the neighborhood,” said Williams, a former lawyer who has lived in Bend for seven years.
Tension among neighbors has been building for months.
Deanna Cully, who also lives on Somerset Drive, alleged the homeowners association board used scare tactics to garner support among neighbors for the association.
“It’s all fear,” Cully said.
“They started with the fear of drugs, then they preyed on the fear of people losing value in their homes,” she said.
She is deeply frustrated by the fees she has begun receiving from the homeowners association to pay for costs associated with forming the association last year and the current litigation against the Ament family, she said.
Neighbors received a $1,000 bill from the homeowners association in November, and another more than $2,500 bill is on the way, according to Cully.
“A great part of people don’t want to fight for this, and they certainly don’t want to pay the price,” Cully said.
If there are similar facilities that neighbors could visit in other parts of Oregon to see how they work and to realize they are not going to laid waste by people needing help. That might change a couple of minds.
The key is a "Good Neighbor Agreement" and rules with teeth. Ideally there would be an ongoing conversation in the form of a permanent joint neighborhood/residence council. It would meet on a regular basis and field issues having to do with recognition and resolution of disputes. It would come up with solutions that would be binding and enforceable. Addiction is a national scourge; we need to begin to put things right for the good of society and all the rest of us who directly and indirectly suffer from its consequences.
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