Warren officials nix potential methadone clinic

Posted Dec. 08, 2010, at 7 p.m.

WARREN, Maine — Officials are taking clear steps to keep a methadone clinic out of town, at least temporarily.

The town’s planning board decided last week to rescind its approval of a man’s request to turn an old school into office space after it learned the space might be used by a methadone clinic.

Residents of the community also collected 600 signatures on a petition demanding the town selectmen cancel their sales agreement authorizing Bob Emery to buy the abandoned school building. Selectmen reacted to the petition by scheduling a special town meeting for Dec. 13 to let residents vote on a moratorium to prevent any methadone clinics in town until regulations governing them can be established.

After Emery obtained a sales agreement to buy the school from the town in September, he appeared before the planning board to get approval to rent the building on School Street as professional office space. When the planning board approved the plan, Emery had told them he had no tenants.

But when CRC Health Group, one of the largest methadone clinic companies in the United States, started meeting with townspeople and potential neighbors, word spread quickly around town that a methadone clinic might move into the old school. CRC’s interest in operating a clinic in Warren developed after the Turning Tide clinic in Rockland was shut down by state and federal officials in August, after the owner was charged with felony cocaine possession.

The planning board then scheduled a meeting for Dec. 2 to rescind its approval, arguing that a methadone clinic would not qualify as professional office space.

“It was presented as a professional office building with nothing definitive as to potential tenants, when in fact a drug treatment methadone clinic tenant had already been secured,” stated planning board member Elisabeth Clark reading from a two-page argument she had written. “Although there may not be a signed lease agreement in place, the applicant was aware of the property’s intended use, but nevertheless failed to inform the planning board.”

At the same meeting, Emery’s attorney, Philip Cohen, said the issue will “likely” end up in court.

“I believe a health clinic does fall under professional offices,” Cohen argued from the back of the room, which was standing room only.

The planning board members voted unanimously to rescind their previous approval of the building’s use and told Emery he could come back in January to resubmit his application with more specifics about potential tenants.

The special town meeting to discuss a moratorium against methadone clinics will be held at 7 p.m. Monday, Dec. 13, at the Warren Community School gymnasium. No other business is on the warrant.

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