No legal challenges to Day One approval

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NEW GLOUCESTER — Day One plans to move into its much-debated youth substance abuse facility in mid-July.

Rebecca Howes, the non-profit’s director of development and public relations, said Tuesday the project is waiting on wiring work and subsequent approval from the fire marshal.

In May, the New Gloucester Planning Board signed off on 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.

The residential facility would replace an existing Day One location in Hollis.

Approval for the project came after several votes by the town’s Zoning Board of Appeals to uphold the determination by Code Enforcement Officer Debra Parks Larrivee that the facility is an approved use within the town’s rural residential zone subject to site plan review.

While at least one neighbor indicated in May that a legal challenges could be forthcoming, Town Manager Carrie Castonguay said the town was not aware of any appeal filed in Superior Court before the June 14 deadline.

Per state law, there was a 30-day window to appeal the planning board’s May 15 approval.

Michael Rawlings-Sekunda, a vocal but nuanced critic of the Day One plan during the town’s approval process, said he ultimately decided not to file an appeal in court.

Rawlings-Sekunda, who had filed one of three appeals to Parks Larrivee’s initial determination that jump-started the Board of Appeals process, has repeatedly emphasized the more than three decades he spent working in the child welfare field, at one point saying that his objections to the facility are “fundamentally not about the kids in Day One’s programs.”

Concerns raised by some neighboring residents included 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.

Rawlings-Sekunda said previously that he didn’t have the money to mount a legal challenge, and that after consulting an attorney, he didn’t believe the neighborhood’s continued concerns would carry much legal weight in court.

He said last week that “one or two people” in the neighborhood had been considering legal action, but that he “kind of talked them down.”

One of the other appellants, Eric Ritter, had indicated in May that Superior Court was an option. Attempts to reach Ritter for this story were unsuccessful.

Neighborhood member Lucia Weinhardt said that her family had no plans to pursue a legal challenge, but felt that surrounding residents received “very poor communication from the get go” about the project.

Rawlings-Sekunda said he will be “paying attention with my experience and expertise” when the Day One facility opens, emphasizing his frustrations with the process. “It didn’t need to happen this way.”

Day One held several open houses at the Interval Road location in an attempt to connect with residents and share information about the facility.

“We are anxious to begin our work in New Gloucester and to begin developing and expanding our relationships with our new neighbors,” said Day One CEO Greg Bowers after the Planning Board approved the project. “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.”

Now that Day One is close to moving in, Weinhardt said she is hopeful the organization will succeed in its mission to help young people dealing with substance abuse issues.

“Of course we’re going to welcome them, but we wish they had come in differently,” Weinhardt said. “If they’re going to come in, we want them to succeed.”

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

Day One plans to open its youth substance abuse treatment facility on Intervale Road next month.

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