CAMDEN — A short-lived attempt via telephone polling to get a sense of how Camden residents feel about a possible alcohol and drug treatment facility at Fox Hill on Bay View Street is over, and reactions to it have been strong.
The proposed ordinance amendment to facilitate conversion of the Fox Hill estate to a rehab center is the Camden Planning Board’s only agenda item this evening.
Phone calls were made this week to some citizens in Camden on behalf of opponents to the proposed Fox Hill treatment center. Neighbors Leonard and Madlyn Abramson, who own property at 230 and 221 Bay View Street, adjacent to, and directly across, from the Fox Hill property, are represented by Pierce Atwood, a Portland-based legal firm. Local attorney John Sanford, of the Camden-based Harmon, Jones and Sanford, also represent the Abramsons.
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), 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.
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.
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 that the planning board agrees to send on to the Camden Select Board for its consideration, before it goes before voters.
The polling “is over with,” said Sanford, Aug. 15. “There won’t be any more.”
He said: “I can confirm that a poll was conducted. We understand a lot of people are upset.”
Pierce Atwood attorney Matthew Manahan also said today that his firm contracted with Baldacci Communications, a Portland–based public affairs and campaign management company, to conduct a phone survey.
“We wanted to find out if this was an issue, a broader concern, for the community, and if people understood the ordinance proposal,” said Manahan.
The polling was also an attempt to get a feel for the concerns of residents, he said.
“The purpose was to find out the concerns and if people had heard about it,” said Sanford.
Manahan did not know the questions that were asked in the phone surveys, and attempts to reach Baldacci Communications about them have yet to be successful.
Some residents have been chatting about the survey on Facebook, and their reactions have been skeptical; mainly they were puzzled about who was polling them and the manner by which they conducted the poll.
Asked Aug. 15 if the group that is proposing the Fox Hill rehab center was behind the polling, one of the 24 investors behind Fox Hill Real Estate LLC, Tom Rodman, said no.
“If people are going to hear from me, it’s going to me calling and I am going to say why I am calling,” he said.
Planning Board meeting this evening
The Camden Planning Board meets at 5 p.m., Aug. 15, to discuss proposed language for the request for a zoning
amendment. While there is no accommodation of public comment at this meeting, the public will be invited to the board’s Aug. 29 to express opinions and thoughts. The intent of tonight’s meeting is to allow the planning board to review the submitted language with Town Attorney Bill Kelly.
Project opponents have encouraged the Camden Planning Board recommend to the Camden Select Board that the Fox Hill-crafted ordinance amendment not be placed on a town meeting ballot.
In an Aug. 13 letter to Kelly (see the above PDF to read the entire letter), Mahanan again encouraged the planning board to reject the proposed amendment.
“The specific use now articulated as contemplated by the amendment proponents is inappropriate for the coastal residential district,” he wrote. “It is a commercial use already allowed, appropriately, in the B-2 and B-3 districts.”
He additionally said the amendment constituted contract zoning, which is not allowed in Camden, he wrote. Manahan said spot zoning is bad planning, and: “Camden would not be able to limit the zone change to allow just this one treatment center, to serve only the particular population that these particular proponents are currently indicating they intend to serve, subject to whatever other limitations they suggest and are included in any final iteration of the proposed amendment.”
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