Brewer to air drug clinic zone rules

Posted Feb. 24, 2009, at 10:52 p.m.

BREWER, Maine — Without changes to land use codes, a methadone clinic could open up on Robinhood Drive or Cedar Street, and there would be no way to stop it, officials say.

To prevent that from happening, city councilors last year enacted a moratorium on the opening of methadone or other drug treatment facilities and formed a committee to create rules and regulations about where such facilities could locate, their size and licensing.

“We’re trying to be proactive,” City Planner Linda Johns said Tuesday, stressing that no methadone or other narcotic treatment clinic operators have approached the city.

Six proposed land use changes, created by the methadone treatment facilities ordinance committee, are ready to be presented to the public, Code Enforcement Officer David Russell said Tuesday.

A joint public hearing with the planning board and City Council is scheduled for 6 p.m. Monday, March 2, at City Hall for residents to learn more about the proposed amendments and to give their comment.

Under the proposed changes, narcotic treatment facilities would be allowed to open only in the general business and professional business districts, which basically is a half-mile-thick band of land that runs along the Wilson Street corridor. The area equals 7.8 percent of the city.

All public or private schools within the zone, such as Brewer High School on Parkway South and Stillwater Academy on Acme Road, are in restricted areas where no clinic may be located within 250 feet of their property lines.

In addition to location requirements, “there will be additional restrictions they [drug clinics] will have to follow” dealing with landscaping, parking and building size, Johns said, to ensure there is enough room “so no one is waiting outside of the building.”

The proposed rules would require “15 square feet per client,” Russell said. “And we’re asking for on-site security.”

Security guards and surveillance cameras would be required, he said.

Each year, the clinics would have to renew their city license, requiring proof of federal and state licenses, an inspection by the code enforcement office for safety code compliance and on-site security, and comparing the licensed client number to the actual number of clients to ensure they are equal.

The proposed amendments also would ban mobile drug treatment clinics.

Methadone, a synthetic opiate, is used to treat addiction to heroin and other opiates. Supporters of methadone treatment say clinics are crucial to curbing addiction, while critics say the clinics breed more crime.

Bangor is home to three of the state’s nine methadone clinics, and city leaders in that community have said “there would be no more [new clinics] but they haven’t ruled out the potential for expansion,” Russell said.

The city has received some calls about the proposed land use changes from people concerned about their neighborhoods, he said.

Drug clinics “are federally protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act,” Russell said. For that reason, “they’re being treated the same as any [medical] clinic.”

Any attempt to entirely ban them from coming to Brewer “would not stand up in court,” he said.

By making the proposed changes, the city has a say in where methadone and other drug treatment clinics may locate and how they are run, Russell said.

Without the changes, “they could go anywhere and that’s what scares [people] because they could go next door,” he said.

The methadone and drug clinic moratorium is in effect until August. The six city staffers who sit on the methadone treatment facilities ordinance committee are City Solicitor Joel Dearborn, Police Chief Perry Antone, City Councilor Archie Verow, City Manager Steve Bost, Johns and Russell.

The City Council has the final say in approving amendments. The March regular council meeting date has been moved, and is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 3.

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