WARREN, Maine — It took minutes for the town’s voters to agree to pass a new land use ordinance designed to keep methadone clinics away from schools, churches, day care facilities, parks, playgrounds and homes.
In fact, the clinics now are allowed only on two roads in town, Route 1 and Route 90.
About 60 voters nearly unanimously approved the ordinance on Tuesday night.
The meeting adjourned not quite 20 minutes after the town clerk passed out the ballots.
The ordinance was written after a national methadone treatment provider stated it planned to come to town and rent a former school. The town enacted a moratorium against methadone clinics until it could write this ordinance.
Because of the moratorium, CRC Health Group and the man who tried to buy the former school both are suing the town. The methadone treatment provider and Bob Emery say that the town acted against the Americans With Disabilities Act by temporarily disallowing clinics to operate in the town.
The next court mediation is scheduled for later this month, according to the town attorney.
In the very back of the Masonic Hall, where the public vote was held, sat Emery’s attorney, Phillip Cohen. Cohen said the new ordinance also is discriminatory against people with disabilities.
“It doesn’t resolve the issue,” he said Tuesday night.
The town’s attorney, Patrick Mellor, disagreed. He said the ordinance is fair and doesn’t mention methadone clinics specifically. It’s a “large business, professional and medical offices or clinics” ordinance.
“It’s a very typical ordinance,” Mellor said. “They have all of Route 1 and all of Route 90. It’s the logical place for it to be. It’s very reasonable.”
The new ordinance limits any office that has more than 150 visits daily to Route 90 or Route 1. Large offices must be 500 feet from homes, schools, churches, day care providers, libraries, parks or playgrounds. They can operate only from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays and 7 a.m. to noon weekends and holidays. They also must pave driveways and have a specific amount of parking.
In 2005, the city of Rockland tried to limit a methadone clinic to a certain road and it also faced an ADA lawsuit. The city eventually let the methadone clinic move to a spot on Route 1, which was against the city’s own ordinance. That methadone clinic, Turning Tide, was shut down by state and federal officials in August 2010 after the owner was charged with felony cocaine possession.
At the brief Tuesday night meeting, residents also voted to raise $30,000 for extra attorney fees this year.
According to Town Manager Grant Watmough, the town already has overdrawn the $16,000 attorney fee budget line by more than $2,000 — and the fiscal year is only half over. All the voters save one decided it was a good idea to raise the extra cash.