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Camden neighbors fight back over rehab center’s attempt to dismiss lawsuit

The Fox Hill property in Camden.
VisionAppraisal
The Fox Hill property in Camden.
Posted June 08, 2014, at 11:22 a.m.
Last modified June 08, 2014, at 2:37 p.m.

Poll Question

CAMDEN, Maine — Residents trying to block a high-end alcohol rehabilitation center from opening in their neighborhood want their day in court.

The neighbors fighting the proposed McLean Hospital center at the Fox Hill estate on Bay View Street in Camden filed a motion this week in U.S. District Court, opposing McLean and Fox Hill’s effort to have the federal lawsuit dismissed.

Undercliff Cottage LLC, Phelan 2006 Family Trust, Julie and Charles Cawley, Parker Laite Sr. and Friends of Camden Maine LLC filed the lawsuit March 27.

The claim is that the Federal Fair Housing Amendments Act is being used inappropriately by the treatment center developers.

“Defendants hope this facade will salvage the enormous profit they had envisioned for their facility. Permitting this venture to go forward would be an extreme perversion of the fundamental purpose of the FHAA,” the neighbors said in their latest filing on Thursday.

McLean and Fox Hill Real Estate argued in their motion to have the case dismissed that the neighbors were wrongly asking the court to declare that wealthy disabled people were not protected by the federal law. This amounted to discrimination, the center’s developers stated.

The neighbors claim 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.

The neighbors claim the improper use of the Fox Hill property would adversely affect their properties by substantially increasing traffic and noise, and it would pose a serious safety problem because of 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. McLean and Fox Hill and 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 that is protected against discrimination by the federal law.

No court hearings have yet been scheduled for the case.

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