What we don’t know CAN hurt us
To the Camden Planning Board:
As citizens concerned with the future of Camden, we have decided to further examine the Fox Hill investors and their proposal for a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center at Fox Hill. While we understand that it is the Planning Board’s responsibility to investigate all such proposals to ensure that they are consistent with the town’s zoning laws, we feel that the analysis cannot be complete without having a broader picture of the issues involved. We found some items that cause us great concern:
Although promised by Mr. Rodman during the site visit several months ago, the names of 20+ investors remain unknown to the community. Why should the Camden Planning Board be asked to approve such a significant change to our governing laws without even knowing the people whom the change would benefit?
Mr. Rodman is the face of the enterprise and the only person in front of the Planning Board that has any direct relationship with this project. As an active Wall Street broker, Mr. Rodman is regulated by the Financial Industry Regulatory Agency (FINRA), which publishes detailed histories on every brokerage firm and licensed investment advisor in the country. According to FINRA, Mr. Rodman has recently been subject to several consumer complaints, one of which has given rise to an ongoing lawsuit against him. We believe that the details of these activities should be explored further before making the determination to allow the FHRE proposal to go further down the path of allowing new commercial development in Camden’s residential neighborhoods.
Although the Planning Board has repeatedly stated that McLean Hospital is not relevant to this zoning application, since it is neither an owner nor a lessee of Fox Hill, the Board has allowed repeated testimony regarding McLean’s reputation, credentials, and compared the proposal in Camden to a McLean’s facility currently operating in Princeton, Massachusetts. We have heard the proponents tout all the public outreach and the positive impact such outreach is having in the communities they locate in. According to administrators at both high schools that service the Princeton area, McLean has never sponsored a program involving drug and alcohol prevention at either school. As long as the Planning Board allows McLean’s Director of Business Development to speak about community outreach in these hearings, he should also be required to answer specifics about where such outreach is performed, how often, and the benefits that result.
News stories abound regarding the constant expansion of drug and alcohol treatment centers across the United States as investors find that charging $60,000 per month per room is quite profitable. Make no mistake, this is big business. We have all read the stories about their abuses of Malibu’s zoning code; we have also discovered that similar problems exist in towns as diverse as Juno Beach, Florida, Bloomington, Utah, Brooklyn Park, Maryland and Lakeway, Texas. Quiet, residential cities like Boca Raton, Florida have been bullied or sued into accepting these expansions; other towns are not even informed of expansion plans until after the fact. How can the Camden Planning Board be satisfied that FHRE will not expand operations after it is approved? While Mr. Rodman referred to 8 or 9 beds at the last hearing, the actual FHRE application calls for up to 14 beds, and the original application contemplated 16. The property itself contains several residences and reportedly has at least 20 bedrooms. The investors could therefore easily double the number of patients that Mr. Rodman referred to, without informing the town.
In addition, the issue of clustering facilities by buying up surrounding residences is cropping up all over the United States. Any property abutting Fox Hill that is for sale is at risk of being purchased as the lots can simply be joined,thereby avoiding any additional need to apply for zoning exceptions or approvals with the town. Has the Board inquired as to whether FHRE plans to purchase any additional property surrounding Fox Hill? This matter is of great importance as it could mean that several parcels, not just one, will be affected by this zoning change. In addition, if the combined property is ever sold to McLean or another non-profit operator, it would remove several parcels from the tax rolls, not just one.
Given all of these concerns, it is clear that the Planning Board cannot recommend that this proposal be placed on the ballot in June. We urge the Planning Board to vote NO on this proposal next Thursday, December 12th.
Citizens of Camden for Responsible Zoning