Day One facility heads to NG Planning Board

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NEW GLOUCESTER — A proposal from non-profit Day One to open a 12-bed substance abuse treatment facility in New Gloucester will now head to the Planning Board, having cleared several challenges made through the town’s Zoning Board of Appeals process.

The Board of Appeals voted 4-0 Tuesday night to uphold the Feb. 28 determination by town Code Enforcement Officer Debra Parks Larrivee that the proposed treatment facility is an approved use within the town’s rural residential district and is subject to site plan review by the Planning Board.

Three formal appeals were filed by residents after Parks Larrivee’s determination, and approximately 50 people filled the New Gloucester meetinghouse last week when the Board of Appeals heard from appellants, Day One representatives, and various members of the public.

Town Planner Scott Hastings said Wednesday that he expected the Planning Board to hold a public hearing on the proposal at its next meeting on May 1. Hastings said the hearing had not been officially scheduled yet.

Day One, a nonprofit organization based in South Portland that provides substance abuse treatment and prevention services to Maine youth, proposes to use a two-story home it purchased at 934 Intervale Road to house males ages 14-20. The facility would replace an existing Day One location in Hollis.

Board of Appeals members made reference Tuesday night to the volume of comments they received about the project at the previous meeting, which included both opposition and support from residents.

“Most of the concerns I heard last week were regarding issues that the Planning Board would review and approve or disapprove,” board member Norman Chamberlain said at the April 10 meeting.

“The concerns that were brought up last week, though very valid, unfortunately, we cannot use those to consider this,” added board member Kathleen Potter later in the meeting.

“Really this comes down to use, and whether it’s an approved use under the ordinance,” Chamberlain said about the Board of Appeals’ role.

The town’s zoning ordinance lists nursing homes and residential care facilities — subject to performance standards for elderly housing — along with community living arrangements as permitted uses subject to site plan review in the rural residential zone. The ordinance language also contains a provision that allows for “uses similar to permitted uses.”

The residents appealing Parks Larrivee’s ruling argued in part that the proposed Day One facility does not fall under those permitted uses within the rural residential zone.

Day One’s lawyer argued last week that the treatment facility is “reasonably similar” to other permitted uses outlined in the zoning ordinance.

Much attention was also paid to the definition of community living arrangement laid out in Maine state statute, which says the term “means a housing facility for 8 or fewer persons with disabilities that is approved, authorized, certified or licensed by the State. A community living arrangement may include a group home, foster home or intermediate care facility.”

The state statute also contains a provision deeming community living arrangements as single-family use “in order to implement the policy of this State that persons with disabilities are not excluded by municipal zoning ordinances from the benefits of normal residential surroundings.”

Single-family use is a permitted use within the rural residential zone that doesn’t require site plan review, meaning that if Day One had kept its proposal to eight beds, it wouldn’t have to go before the Planning Board for the review.

Bowers said that Day One’s decision to pursue a 12-bed facility rather than eight was about maximizing the facility’s impact, not its bottom line.

“We just think that 12 beds gives us the flexibility we need to meet community needs,” Bowers said. “This is about our mission.”

One of the appellants, Michael Rawlings-Sekunda, said after Tuesday night’s meeting that he planned to continue making the argument that a 12-bed facility does not meet the community living arrangement definition during the Planning Board process. He did not anticipate making a legal challenge to the project.

Rawlings-Sekunda said last week that he worked in the child welfare field for 33 years and had worked with young people in recovery. He emphasized that his appeal was “fundamentally not about the kids in Day One’s programs.”

Potter said she appreciated the public input on the project.

“I thank everybody who came last week — listening to everybody was wonderful. We appreciate all the input that was given to us,” Potter said Tuesday, with many of last week’s commenters sitting in the audience. “Don’t think that we didn’t listen to you, because we did. We heeded it. It’s just the way it works is, we have to go by the standards that are written here and the law.”

Potter made the motion to uphold the Code Enforcement Officer’s determination, and Chairman Ray Hamilton, Chamberlain, and board member Jeff Hamilton, Sr. all voted in favor of it.

The board’s fifth member, Donald Libby, did not participate in either hearing on the Day One proposal because he is also Chairman of the Planning Board.

Update: Since publication, Rawlings-Sekunda has said that he is not ruling out legal action and will make a final decision after reviewing the signed denial of the appeal. 

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

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

Day One has proposed 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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