Camden neighbors ask federal court to block alcohol rehab center

The Fox Hill property in Camden is being eyed as a treatment center by a Massachusetts hospital.
VisionAppraisal file photo
The Fox Hill property in Camden is being eyed as a treatment center by a Massachusetts hospital.
Posted March 27, 2014, at 12:02 p.m.
Last modified March 27, 2014, at 1:31 p.m.

CAMDEN, Maine — Several neighbors of a proposed high-end alcohol treatment center have asked a federal court to block the project.

“The provisions of the Federal Fair Housing Act and the Maine Revised Statutes Annotated were not instituted to provide extremely wealthy persons with a one-month resort in a private residential area to recover from over-drinking,” according to court papers filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Bangor.

The neighbors are asking the court to determine that McLean Hospital Corp.’s proposed treatment center does not fall under the Federal Fair Housing Act for 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 have hired attorney David Burger of New York City and Dana Strout of Rockport to represent them.

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

The neighbors claim the improper use of the Fox Hill property would adversely affect their properties by substantially increasing traffic and noise that 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 would also 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 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 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 it would reduce the number of beds at the treatment center to eight and would allow the center to fall under the designation of a community living arrangement.

Camden’s town attorney agreed with that interpretation in a letter issued to town officials last month.

The federal case has been referred to U.S. District Court Judge Nancy Torresen.

Telephone messages left Thursday for attorneys Paul Gibbons of Camden and Clifford Goodall of Freeport, who represent Fox Hill and McLean, were not immediately returned. A message left for Burger was also not immediately returned.

Fox Hill said it would issue a statement later Thursday.

Also on Thursday, Camden Planner and Code Enforcement Officer Steve Wilson said he was going to issue Fox Hill a building permit to undertake $250,000 in renovations required by the state fire marshal’s office for the treatment center. The work includes installing a sprinkler system.

The building permit was the only approval the town has decided that it needs to give to the project. The group also must obtain a license from the Maine Department of Health and Human Services.

Watch bangordailynews.com for updates.

 

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