Meeting tonight: Opportunity for the public to learn more, ask questions

Fox Hill proposal back under spotlight Oct. 17, Camden Opera House

Thu, 10/17/2013 - 8:30am

    CAMDEN —The proposal to amend Camden’s land use ordinance to possibly allow for a alcohol and drug abuse treatment facility at Fox Hill continues to move through a planning board process, with the next meeting scheduled for this evening, Oct. 17, at 5 p.m., at the Camden Opera House. At that point, the Fox Hill proponents will present a economic analysis of the project. Citizens will also have the opportunity to speak that evening.

    “This will be an opportunity for the public to learn more, and to have the opportunity to ask questions,” said Stephen Wilson, Camden’s code enforcement officer and planner. “Attorneys for the applicant and the abutters will each be given 30 minutes to explain their position regarding the proposal as it applies to the Comprehensive Plan and to address other issues related to the language of the proposal and zoning issues only, not to permitting or other issues. Each will be given an opportunity to reply to the other comments as long as there is no repeating of arguments, no filibustering, and no back and forth discussion.”

    Wilson circulated an updated schedule of the process this week, saying: “Before the proposal is finalized for the hearings, formatting needs to be done to show how the proposal fits within the ordinance, and research done to make sure that all affected sections of the ordinance have been addressed including, the definitions section, the use needs to be added as a permitted use in the district, the special exceptions section, and perhaps the performance standards section. The applicant also needs to make sure that there is a trigger requiring site plan review.”

    Fox Hill proponents hope the Camden Planning Board will agree to send the proposed language change in the ordinance to the Select Board, which, in turn, will decide whether to put before voters at a town meeting.

    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 up to $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.

    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 be operating 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 voter consideration of a zoning amendment that would allow a facility like the Fox Hill treatment center
    to seek planning board approval on Bay View Street.

    Read the proposed amendment here.

    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.”

    The next step, contingent on whether Camden voters approve the zoning amendment, is for the project to undergo 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.

    The zoning amendment will not be on the November ballot. It is not yet decided by Fox Hill proponents whether they will seek a special town meeting or wait until June Town Meeting for a townwide vote.

    The first task, said Camden Attorney Paul Gibbons, who represents Fox Hill Real Estate LLC, is to craft ordinance language with the hopes that the planning board will agree to send on to the Camden Select Board for its consideration, before that board decides if it goes before voters.

     Before the next meeting, Wilson said, the language of the proposal needs to be finalized and the applicant needs to have copies of the language “in the format he has been using as well as a version showing all the specific ordinance changes,”

    He said attorneys for the different parties have been asked to prepare written arguments for their arguments regarding the Camden Comprehensive Plan.

    Those arguments are to be circulated one week prior to Oct. 17.

    At the Oct. 17 meeting, the project proponents are to provide new information, including the final revised proposal, said Wilson.

    The Planning Board may not know at the end of this meeting whether or not it will go on to hold public hearings, but they will reserve the Opera House for the purpose just in case, Wilson said.

    Following public hearings will be scheduled, as necessary, for Nov. 7 and Dec. 12.


    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

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