CAMDEN, Maine — The developers who want to open a treatment center for wealthy people suffering from alcoholism have asked that a lawsuit filed by Camden neighbors be dismissed.
“Without a trace of embarrassment, they have sought to stop the project by invoking the Federal Housing Act, a statute intended to prevent precisely the sort of discrimination they are now advocating. Specifically, the plaintiffs are asking this court to declare that certain disabled people (wealthy ones) are not protected by the FHA — and that the neighbors and/or the Town of Camden may therefore discriminate against them,” the response filed Friday in U.S. District Court by Fox Hill Real Estate and the McLean Hospital Corp. states.
There is no support for this bizarre assertion, the response states.
Neighbors filed the lawsuit in federal court in March, claiming the provisions of federal and state housing laws were not instituted to provide “extremely wealthy persons with a one-month resort in a private residential area to recover from over-drinking.”
The Fox Hill owners want to lease the 16,442-square-foot home at 235 Bay View St. on nearly 14 acres for use as a center where patients would spend a month for treatment. Patients would pay $50,000-$60,000 for the month’s stay.
Opponents of the project — Undercliff Cottage LLC, Phelan 2006 Family Trust, Julie and Charles Cawley, Parker Laite Sr. and Friends of Camden Maine LLC — asked the court to determine that Fox Hill and McLean Hospital Corp.’s proposed treatment center does not fall under the federal definition of community living arrangements. This is a crucial interpretation because if the project falls under the federal protection, the town has no authority to review or regulate the center.
The neighbors claim the improper use of the Fox Hill property would adversely affect their properties by substantially increasing traffic and noise and would pose a serious safety problem due to the narrowness and sharp turn on Bay View Street. The market value of properties near the treatment center also would be harmed, according to the lawsuit.
The issue has been a divisive one in Camden for the past year as Fox Hill Real Estate had initially attempted to get the town to amend its zoning laws to allow the treatment center to operate in the residential area of Bay View Street.
The Camden Select Board in February voted 3-2 against placing the proposed change on the municipal ballot. Fox Hill and McLean then announced later that month that they would reduce the number of beds at the treatment center from 12 to eight to allow the center to fall under the designation of a community living arrangement.
No court hearings have yet been scheduled for the case.