June 22, 2018
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Warren board says proposed methadone clinic fails to meet town rules

By Stephen Betts, BDN Staff

WARREN, Maine — The town’s planning board ruled Thursday night that the proposed methadone clinic off Route 1 failed to meet several town ordinances.

The votes were taken during a raucous three-hour meeting in which the planning board chairman repeatedly ruled speakers, including a selectman, out of order. His admonishments, however, did not stop the people from continuing to speak.

The board also held a couple of five-minute recesses in which they gathered on stage to discuss the matter out of earshot of the public.

Planning Board Chairman Peter Krakoff warned the board that the town likely would lose in federal court on the reasons that the plan was being found out of compliance with town ordinances. The board voted 4-1 that CRC’s proposal for 1767 Atlantic Highway failed to meet the town ordinance on vehicular and pedestrian safety. The board also voted 4-1 that the clinic failed to meet the 500-foot setback from residences and that CRC had not proved there were no practical alternatives.

CRC attorney Walter McKee said after the meeting that he has asked the board, and it has agreed, to consider whether it is a reasonable accommodation to allow the clinic to be closer than 500 feet. Reasonable accommodation is contained in the Americans with Disabilities Act, the federal law that CRC’s lawsuit against the town cited.

McKee also said CRC will propose building a sidewalk on Short Street, which is located adjacent to the property.

The board will meet again Tuesday night at 7 at the Warren Community Center to consider those two final issues.

McKee said he does not know if the matter will go back to court. The deadline is Friday, June 8, for CRC to decide whether to dismiss the lawsuit it filed in May 2011, alleging the town was violating the Americans with Disabilities Act by enacting a moratorium and then restrictions on methadone clinics. The two sides reached a deal in September in which the town agreed to act on a subsequent CRC application within 90 days of it being filed, a time frame that passed several months ago.

During a break in the meeting, McKee said CRC’s concern from day one has been that the methadone clinic is being treated differently because of what it is.

“If this were a proposal for a day care center at this location there would be two people here maybe, not 100,” he said.

Selectman Michael York criticized Krakoff for raising the issue of the lawsuit during the board’s deliberations. York said the board should just review the proposal to see if it meets the town ordinances.

Krakoff ruled him out but York continued to speak, saying the chairman could have him thrown out of the meeting.

Resident Sara Alley of Main Street also was ruled out of order on more than one occasion as Krakoff said the public hearing part of the meeting was over but she continued to speak and also dared him to throw her out of the meeting.

Alley and other neighbors said the clinic would generate excessive traffic along side streets as people would use short cuts rather than enter on Route 1. Alley said the traffic would take away the right of the neighborhood to enjoy the recreational use of the streets, including walking and bicycling.

Krakoff countered, however, that both the traffic study done by CRC, a peer review by a firm selected by the town, and the Maine Department of Transportation found that there would be no more than 12 to 13 cars an hour going to the clinic during its peak hours of operation.

“One vehicle every five minutes is not a huge impact,” he said.

Alley said, however, that the DOT study only looked at the impact on Route 1 and not the side streets.

In terms of the 500-foot setback, McKee said there is no practical alternative to the location selected. He said other locations would cost twice as much.

Residents argued that there was no evidence other than CRC’s statement that there was no practical alternative.

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