Votes to let the public decide

Camden Planning Board agrees town citizenry should vote on Fox Hill amendment language

Thu, 01/02/2014 - 7:00pm

    CAMDEN — Voting 4 to 1, the Camden Planning Board is sending the matter of a Fox Hill amendment to the Camden Select Board, recommending that citizens vote on proposed changes to the town’s zoning ordinance.

    The motion reads: “After considering the following proposed additions to the Camden Zoning Ordinance:

    1) New definitions of Operator of a Private residential treatment facility and outpatient care;

    2) The additional standards for a private residential facility; and

    3) Addition of a private residential treatment as a use allowed as a special exception in the Coastal Residential Zone

    I move that the Planning Board finds that they have reviewed these additions and recommend that the additions be considered by the Select Board for inclusion on the next town ballot.”

    Planning board member Richard Householder cast the dissenting vote. Voting in favor were Lowrie Sargent, John Scholz, Jan McKinnon and Kim Tuttle.

    Watch the Oct. 17 informational meeting.

    Watch the Nov. 20 public hearing

    Watch the Dec. 12 public hearing

    Jan. 2 Planning Board meeting

    Approximately 25 citizens gathered inside the Camden Opera House Thursday evening, Jan. 2, and as a blizzard built in intensity outdoors, the Planning Board focused intently on proposed ordinance amendment language that enables siting an alcohol rehabilitation center on outer Bay View Street at the Fox Hill estate.

    While the board members initially stated reasons for supporting or opposing sending the ordinance amendment on to the Select Board for consideration, they spent more than 90 minutes asking questions of the town’s attorney, Bill Kelly, and code enforcement officer, Steve Wilson, and also substantiating their own positions. By fleshing out their arguments, the board members also established a full public record of what has been a lengthy municipal process, in case the matter is moved, for any reason, to legal proceedings. (See attached PDFs to read their opening statements and reasons behind their positions.)

    Fox Hill project

    Project proponents want to turn the 13.8-acre Fox Hill estate at 235 Bay View Street into a high-end residential alcohol and substance abuse treatment facility for up to 12 clients at a time, each paying approximately $60,000 for four to five weeks of treatment.

    Owners of the estate, Fox Hill Real Estate LLC (24 investors, including Lincolnville summer resident Tom Rodman and Rockport summer resident Merril Halpern), hope to team up with the Massachusetts-based McLean Hospital to establish the facility in the former Borden Cottage that sits on a hill overlooking Penobscot Bay.

    Rodman has said the other 22 investors are family and friends; “no Wall Street sharks,” he said.

    Other investors who have been named include Bob Campbell, of Rockport; Betty and Scott Harris, of N.H.; and George Rodman, of Maryland.

    Philip Levendusky, associate professor of psychology at Harvard Medical School and senior vice president for business development and marketing, as well as director of the psychology department at McLean Hospital, is representing the nonprofit that would operate the facility.

    The business deal between the for-profit Fox Hill Real Estate LLC and the nonprofit McLean Hospital, which would lease the property, is contingent on local zoning and site plan approval, as well as state regulatory approval.

    The first step is for the planning board to vote to send the proposed amendment on to the Camden Select Board for its consideration. The Select Board is the body that ultimately decides whether to put the amendment on the ballot.

    The amendment would adjust the town’s coastal residential parameters to allow special exceptions for “residential treatment facilities for comprehensive alcohol and related substance abuse disorders providing concurrent treatment for addiction and/or other associated psychiatric disorders.”

    If approved by voters, the project proponents would then need to submit an application for a site plan review by the planning board. It is only the result of that second process that determines whether Fox Hill is allowed to become a treatment center.

    And then there is an appeals process, as well, which could send any application approval to the town’s zoning board of appeals.

    The Planning Board, for months, has been considering a proposed amendment that would, if approved by Camden voters, expand the town’s Coastal Residential zone parameters to allow special exceptions for “residential treatment facilities for comprehensive alcohol and related substance abuse disorders providing concurrent treatment for addiction and/or other associated psychiatric disorders.”

    It is an amendment proposed by Fox Hill Real Estate LLC, working in conjunction with McLean Hospital, of Massachusetts, to establish a high-end alcohol and drug rehabilitation center that would serve 8 to 12 clients over a given period at the Fox Hill estate on Bay View Street.

    The Planning Board’s task has been to evaluate the language of the proposed ordinance amendment, determining if it is in conflict with the town’s comprehensive plan, and deciding whether to move it forward to the Select Board. 

    By approving to send it forward to the Select Board, they are supporting that the voters should have a say in whether the amendment fits the Coastal Residential District.

    At the outset of the meeting, attorney Kelly said, “This board's process is more meat and potatoes, trench work. Divorce the Fox Hill plan and its business model from the real issue at hand: whether or not the proposed language is appropriate to amend the ordinance.”

    He said, “It’s a black and white review process for you folks.”

    What is its impact on the neighbors, the district and the town itself, as well as the compatibility with the comprehensive plan, he asked.

    Kelly said if the matter went on to the Select Board, that would be a more political and “bare knuckle” forum.


    Related stories:

    Two Fox Hill neighbors say Camden's Bay View Street not appropriate for alcohol treatment center

    Renewed effort to make Camden’s Fox Hill estate an alcohol and substance abuse rehab center begins

    Camden’s Fox Hill changes hands, its future under consideration

    McLean Hospital looks to Camden's Fox Hill for alcohol, drug rehab center

     Camden's Fox Hill rehab deal nixed by landowner, buyer mystified

    No more phone polling of Camden residents about Fox Hill

    Camden Planning Board walks Fox Hill estate; citizens, lawyers tag along

    Fox Hill rehab center and the Camden Comprehensive Plan: In compliance or not?

    Camden wraps up Fox Hill public hearings tonight

    Camden Planning Board listens to more Fox Hill testimony; tables deliberations until Jan. 2


    Editorial Director Lynda Clancy can be reached at; 706-6657.