WARREN, Maine — Neighbors of a proposed methadone clinic continued to plead their case that the site off Route 1 is a bad choice.
The public hearing before the Warren Planning Board lasted for nearly three hours Thursday night before the board decided to consider the plan at its next meeting on Thursday, Feb. 9.
The town and CRC Health Group have been locked in a battle since the fall of 2010 when the company sought to locate the methadone clinic in the former Warren Elementary School owned by the town. The group sued last year but that federal lawsuit is on hold pending the outcome of its application to locate the clinic at a building owned by Robert Emery at 1767 Atlantic Highway (Route 1).
The driveway to the clinic, however, would be located on Short Street and the neighbors said that would result in increased traffic in their residential neighborhood as people using the clinic would avoid trying to get out on busy Route 1.
Attorney James Strong represents several of the neighbors and argued before the board that the plan does not meet the requirements of the ordinance developed by the town. He noted the ordinance states that a clinic should be no closer than 500 feet from a residence if there is any reasonable alternative. He noted there are 45 residences within the 500-feet zone of the proposed clinic.
“This is blatantly an unreasonable request for a blatantly unreasonable accommodation,” Strong said.
Attorney Walter McKee, who represents CRC, said the company has done everything to minimize the impact on the community.
“If we were putting in a large day care center, how many people would be here?” he asked.
McKee said methadone is an accepted, successful treatment for people with opiate addictions. As such, he noted the Americans With Disabilities Act protects those patients.
“The ADA says you’re not allowed to discriminate. You can’t say you don’t want addicts in your community,” McKee said.
But the criticism of the project continued.
Strong said the location was an accident waiting to happen. He said traffic accidents also are becoming more prevalent with opiate treatment patients.
Strong also said town officials were trying to fast-track the project because of the threat of the federal lawsuit. The town has reached a tentative settlement in which the insurance company would pay CRC $320,000.
Resident Terry Walsh said he also objected to the location. He said people’s largest investment was their homes and he worried about the impact the clinic would have on their homes’ values.
He also pointed out that Warren does not have a police force.
Timothy Bohman, regional director for CRC Health Group, said the clinic will not have security personnel but that the staff is trained in de-escalating situations. He said that the company’s experience across the country has shown no need for security staff.
The clinic is proposed to be open from 6 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. weekdays and 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. Saturdays. Bohman said that most patients are working people and the early hours allow them to go to work and lead productive lives.
The clinic will have a staff of 17 to 20 and serve 250 to 300 people, the regional director said.
The clinic will not serve people who are intoxicated, those who require residential treatment services, nor people with extreme behavioral problems.
Wendy Mackenzie of Warren said she was concerned about not only traffic safety but increased vandalism.
“If this happens, I will no longer feel safe,” she said.
Bruce Larson said that it was clear the proposed clinic does not meet the town’s ordinance.
“We have an ordinance, it’s a good ordinance. This doesn’t fit with the ordinance. It’s pretty straight forward, black and white,” Larson said.
McKee said, however, that CRC has consistently maintained that the 500-foot restriction from residences was far too significant.
After the meeting, he said he got to hear the concerns of the residents.