Day One facility gets board’s OK

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NEW GLOUCESTER — The Planning Board has approved an application from Day One to create a residential youth treatment facility on Intervale Road, but at least one neighbor said a Superior Court challenge could be forthcoming.

The board voted 4-0 Tuesday, May 15, to approve Day One’s plan to convert a two-story home at 934 Intervale Road into a 12-bed substance abuse treatment facility for males ages 14-20.

Planning Board Chairman Donald Libby recused himself from the discussion and vote because he has a family member employed by Day One.

A nonprofit based in South Portland, Day One provides substance abuse treatment and prevention services to Maine youth. The organization signed a purchase and sale agreement on the approximately 6acre New Gloucester property in November 2017 with the intent of replacing one of its existing residential facilities in Hollis.

Day One CEO Greg Bowers said after the vote Tuesday that he hopes to have the transition to New Gloucester completed in early or mid-July.

In a written statement Wednesday he said, “We are anxious to begin our work in New Gloucester and to begin developing and expanding our relationships with our new neighbors. Day One is proud of how it has integrated its programs into the fabric of the communities in which it is currently located and sees no reason why it won’t have the same result in New Gloucester.”

Town Planner Scott Hastings said that the board’s official findings of fact and signatures approving the Day One application would take place at its next meeting on June 5.

“That’s the last box to check,” Hastings said.

The town zoning ordinance provides a 30-day period after a Planning Board decision in which “any party aggrieved” can appeal that decision to Superior Court.

Eric Ritter, one of the neighbors who has objected to the proposed facility and argued that it doesn’t fit within the town’s rural residential zoning, said Tuesday night that members of “the neighborhood” surrounding the proposed Day One site would “most likely” take the issue to court.

Ritter has said previously that he “never wanted to have to do any of this stuff,” and that he and others opposing the Day One proposal consider the organization’s work to be a “noble thing.”

Town Code Enforcement Officer Debra Parks Larrivee made an initial determination in February that the proposed 12-bed treatment facility is an approved use within the town’s rural residential district, subject to site plan review by the Planning Board.

The Planning Board was initially set to hold a March 6 public hearing on the Day One project March 6, but voted to postpone the hearing after several residents – including Ritter – filed appeals to Parks Larrivee’s determination.

The Board of Appeals voted 4-0 in April to uphold that determination. It reaffirmed its previous decision with a second vote last week after Michael Rawlings-Sekunda filed a request for the board to reconsider.

Rawlings-Sekunda also submitted one of the original appeals about the Day One proposal being a permitted use. He has emphasized during the process that he worked in the child welfare field for 33 years and that his appeal was “fundamentally not about the kids in Day One’s programs.”

Among the concerns from some residents were whether the proposal fits within town ordinance language for the rural residential district; public safety implications for the surrounding community; the safety and well being of Day One clients; and possible impacts on the area aquifer from a facility that will potentially have 12 full-time residents.

Cumberland County Sheriff Kevin Joyce, whose office is responsible for law enforcement in New Gloucester, said in an April 19 letter to Hastings that he reviewed emergency call data related to Day One’s Hollis facility and concluded that the new location “will not dramatically impact the public safety of the citizens of New Gloucester.”

After Tuesday night’s vote, Rawlings-Sekunda asked the Planning Board members for clarification on what they approved, and he and other members of the public expressed confusion and frustration with the process.

Asked about the possibility of legal action, Rawlings-Sekunda said he didn’t have the money to pursue it but added that “other people have said that they want to.”

Despite opposition from some neighbors, other New Gloucester residents have expressed support for the Day One facility – including several who spoke before the Board of Appeals in April and emphasized the state-wide importance of combating addiction.

When asked about the project after last week’s annual town meeting, Rep. Ellie Espling, R-New Gloucester, said she has been trying to stay out of the town’s review process but is generally supportive of Day One’s work.

“We have a big drug problem in our state,” Espling said.

In February, the Maine Attorney General’s Office released statistics saying that 418 people died from overdoses in Maine during 2017, an increase of 11 percent from the previous year.

Matt Junker can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or mjunker@keepmecurrent.com. Follow him on Twitter: @MattJunker.

Day One plans to use a two-story home it purchased at 934 Intervale Road as a substance abuse treatment facility for males ages 14-20.

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