Bangor City Council members on Monday will propose blocking Gov. Paul LePage from building a 21-bed “step-down” psychiatric facility anywhere in the city except on the campus of the Dorothea Dix Psychiatric Center.
The plan to be presented Monday is two-pronged: First, it would lift the six-month moratorium passed in September on secure psychiatric facilities. Second, it would restrict construction of secure psychiatric facilities to where they already exist in the city, according to city manager Cathy Conlow.
That would effectively limit the proposed “step-down” psychiatric facility to the campus of Dorothea Dix, Conlow said.
The full council passed a six-month moratorium in September that delayed LePage’s proposed project, an 8,300-square-foot rehabilitation center slated for state-owned land on Hogan Road, across the street from Dorothea Dix. Councilors have said they wanted time to consider its impact, and that LePage had not explained key details, like who run it and how it would be funded.
The ordinances were drafted based on feedback from a public meeting in September, committee chairman David Neally said. Neighbors of the proposed project and residents didn’t necessarily object to having a such facility in the city, but questioned the state’s lack of an explanation for why it needed to be in Bangor, he said.
City officials can’t stop the state’s project from moving forward, Conlow said, but they have the right to set zoning rules that control the standards and location of its development.
LePage has pitched the project as a way to alleviate strain on Augusta’s troubled Riverview Psychiatric Center, which lost federal accreditation in 2013 for a reasons related to staffing, practices, and overcrowding. LePage originally intended to build the new facility in Augusta, but changed the location to Bangor after the Legislature blocked it last November.
“This was a way, with the proposal we have now, to meet everyone’s needs and to address the concerns of the neighbors,” Conlow said.
The council will conduct procedural first readings of the drafts Monday, and no action or discussion is expected. The first substantive consideration of the zoning changes will happen on Dec. 5 before the planning board, which must review revisions to the land development code.
Follow the Bangor Daily News on Facebook for the latest Maine news.