A group of Columbia County business owners vowed last week to fight the introduction of a methadone clinic in their Evans shopping center.
Construction work for Treatment Centers of America is under way in the Park Place shopping center on Washington Road, across from Club Car.
That company operates multiple clinics throughout Georgia and uses methadone to treat addictions to opiates such as heroin.
The negative connotations of such a clinic could be detrimental to other businesses in the center, shop owners said during an informal meeting Wednesday to discuss the issue.
"I, for one, consider it a fatal blow," said Peach Mac owner Darryl Peck, who played host to the meeting. "This is going to stop traffic to our stores in a heartbeat."
Since learning about the clinic earlier this month from electricians working in that space, Peck said he has left phone messages with property owner George Snelling of Snelling Properties LLP but has had no return call.
Jason Herrera, owner of Superior dance and martial arts academies, said he spoke with Snelling but found him indifferent to their concerns.
"He does know that's going on, but there is a sense of not caring," Herrera said.
Such a clinic is especially damaging, Herrera said, for shops like his, Learning Express and Augusta Cheer Academy, which cater to children.
"My customers care about the perception," he said.
Snelling said last week during a phone interview that his tenants are "making a mountain out of a molehill."
The clinic, Snelling said, is classified as a medical office and will be operated by a medical doctor. He added that it only will be open from 7 to 11 a.m. each day -- a time when most other businesses in Park Place are closed.
With treatment costs that range from $400 to $800 each month, Snelling also said that it caters to a middle-class clientele, not "inner-city, low-rent" addicts.
The business owners' concerns also are hypocritical, Snelling said, because another Park Place tenant, Bee-Lite Medical Weight Loss, administers an "addictive" drug called Didrex to its clients.
Melissa Dixon, an administrative office manager for Treatment Centers of America, refused to confirm that the business is opening a clinic in Evans. She referred requests for information to the company's Web site at www.tcaclinics.com.
The Web site lists locations in Valdosta, Waycross, Brunswick, Fayette, Newnan and Kennesaw, Ga., but makes no mention of Evans.
Peck said he researched those locations and found that none are located within a retail shopping center.
To combat Snelling's refusal to drop Treatment Centers of America as a tenant, Peck said he plans to write a letter to Snelling in which he and other tenants will threaten to withhold rent until the clinic closes.
Snelling said he will evict any tenant who refuses to pay rent.
"I have a million square feet of real estate," Snelling said. "I can eat that for lunch, my friend."
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