First, zoning change necessary

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

Fri, 02/22/2013 - 3:15pm

    CAMDEN — McLean Hospital, associated with Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital, is considering acquiring Fox Hill in Camden to operate a high-end, 30-day, inhouse alcohol and substance abuse rehabilitation facility. The center would provide nine to 11 beds. The effort, however, requires a zoning ordinance change, which could, if pursued, appear before voters at the June 13 Town Meeting.

    Fox Hill, at 235 Bay View Street, is currently owned by Fox Hill Investments LLC, and its manager is Ellen Simmons. The property, which is listed with Sotheby's Realty for $4.9 million, lies in the town's Coastal Residential District, which would not allow a facility such as what is being proposed. The project would require an amendment to the Coastal Residential District to allow the use as a special exception. If it proceeds towards a June Town Meeting vote, the schedule is tight; however, the planning board willing to fit required public hearings into the time remaining, according to the draft minutes of its Feb. 13 meeting.

    The Camden Planning Board has discussed the proposal at February two meetings, Feb. 13 and Feb. 21. The board has agreed to schedule public hearings to gather citizen opinion.

    Public hearings have been scheduled March 6 and 13, both at 5 p.m., in the Washington Street Meeting Room.

    An informational meeting is scheduled for Feb. 27, 5 p.m., in the Washington Street Meeting Room.

    An ordinance amendment has already been drafted (See PDF document provided above). It says: Article VIII District Regulations, Section 5, Coastal Residential District (CR), C. Uses permitted as Special Exceptions (addition underlined) The following commercial uses: (7) Expansion of hotels or motels with ten or more rooms offered for rent legally in existence as of March 11, 1985, within a lot of record existing as of March 11, 1985, subject to conformity with applicable space and bulk standards. (8) Residential treatment facilities for comprehensive alcohol and related drug treatment programs providing concurrent treatment for addiction and/or other associated psychiatric disorders Such residential treatment facilities shall contain a minimum of 8 beds and a maximum of 16 beds and be located on a minimum of 10 acres of land. Buildings occupied in part or in whole for dwelling use within the residential treatment facilities shall be setback from the road a minimum of 100 feet and setback from the sidelines a minimum of 50 feet; all accessory structures shall be set back a minimum of 100 feet from the road and 25 feet from the sidelines. No existing building, structure or improvement shall be expanded or contracted on the premises after February 22, 2013. Such a residential treatment facility must meet the site plan review ordinance requirements as determined by the Planning Board.


    H. Thompson Rodman is working with McLean Hospital to take the proposal to Camden, with help from Attorney Paul Gibbons, of Camden. Gibbons wrote to the town of Camden in a Feb. 7 letter: "Although we do not as yet have a contract with the owners, we have received permission from them to make this request for a zoning change. Without the Camden board's help, the possibility of an alcohol treatment center at Fox Hill is too theoretical and unsubstantiated to procure necessary financial commitments."

    Because Planning Board Chairman Chris MacLean is a partner in the Camden law firm Elliott and MacLean, which is representing the Fox Hill sellers in the potential real estate transfer, he has recused himself from all proceedings involving that property. He did not attend the Feb. 13 meeting. Acting board chairman is Lowrie Sargent.

    Minutes of the Feb. 13 meeting also state that MacLean Hospital, being a nonprofit and therefore exempt from paying property taxes, has developed a policy by which it makes payments in lieu of taxes in other municipalities. It has not been fully determined, however, whether the new Fox Hill owner would be a for-profit venture.

    Fox Hill, one mile from downtown Camden and Rockport Village, is a 12-acre estate anchored by a 16,000-square-foot, 10-bedroom house. Onsite, there are also three guest cottages with room for 32 guests. The estate includes a swimming pool, activities building with arcade games, billiards and ping-pong rooms, a 1950s-style diner, and a four-lane bowling alley. Built in 1903, the estate was extensively expanded in the 1990s by former MBNA credit card bank president Charles Cawley. It was subsequently sold to Matthew Simmons, who had ideas in 2010 of making Fox Hill a conference center. A community outcry ensued and the project was halted. Simmons died in Summer 2010.

    This latest idea incorporates psycho-educational rehabilitation for up to 11 clients.

    Phillip Levendusky, a doctor and senior vice president of business development at McLean Hospital, told the Camden Planning Board in a Feb. 7 letter that his company is exploring the possibility of operating a "premier alcohol and substance abuse residential program" at Fox Hill.

    "These clients would participate in a rich array of rehabilitation programming offered by a skilled and experienced professional staff," he wrote. "On average, clients would reside on site 30 days. The target clientele will be adults with stable employment and family support systems and the means to access and be fully involved in this elective level of rehabilitative care. Given the fact that they will typically not have cars, and that staff would seldom number more than six to eight at any one time, the traffic generated would be minimal."

    According to Levendusky's letter, the hospital also operates an eight-bed facility in Princeton, Mass., and, he wrote, the town considers it to be "a long standing and exemplary neighbor."

    The draft minutes of the Feb. 13 planning board meeting related a presentation that Levendusky made to the planning board the week prior.

    "Fox Hill would showcase McLean's unique strengths in addiction treatment: The highest quality staff will conduct programs that are widely considered to be some of the most successful models for drug and alcohol treatment in the field; and, they would be overseen by the directors and staff of the foremost hospital in the country specializing in research in addiction treatment," the minutes said, reflecting what Levendusky told the Camden Planning Board.

    McLean, as well as Mass General, are members of Partners HealthCare System, Inc.

    McLean, according to the Feb. 13 minutes, is one of the oldest psychiatric hospitals in the country, founded in 1811.

    The hospital began looking for other sites around the country following a decision to accept private-pay patients. The draft minutes said: "Other highly respected treatment facilities like the Betty Ford Clinic have gone to that model in order to meet rising costs and decreasing insurance reimbursement. They next looked at small rehab programs on the west coast that were similar to the small patient-load facility they were considering.

    "They knew they had an advantage in the quality of the care and programs they could provide, but they had to find a special setting to match the attraction of the properties they had seen in California. If they could find the right venue that would meet the expectations of these patients for a beautiful, luxurious setting, one that would allow the hospital to charge the fees necessary to make this pay, they believed they could compete for this kind of patient.

    "They believe they have found such a venue at Fox Hill, and they have begun 'due diligence' to determine what is involved, and whether or not this is a practical step for the hospital to take; they have also begun to discuss possible investment and partnership scenarios with Mr. Rodman."


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