Former nursing home eyed as spot for substance abuse treatment

Waterford - Representatives from Stonington Behavioral Health Inc. will appear before the Zoning Board of Appeals on Thursday to propose turning the vacant nursing home on Rope Ferry Road into temporary housing for up to 144 adult men receiving outpatient treatment for substance abuse.

A public hearing is scheduled for Thursday, Jan. 3 at 6:30 p.m. in the Town Hall Auditorium, after which the board is scheduled to discuss the issue.

For more than 40 years, the building on Rope Ferry Road was a state-licensed nursing home, last operated as Haven Health Center. It closed two years ago and despite marketing efforts, has remained vacant.

The organization is seeking a variance so the former nursing home may be used to create a structured living environment that provides "crucial psychological and emotional support to persons who are learning to live a sober life," according to the application.

Stonington Behavioral Health provides treatment services to adult civilians, active duty military personnel and veterans at three Stonington Institute locations in southeastern Connecticut: a main campus in North Stonington and two outpatient clinics in Groton.

Bedrooms in the Rope Ferry Road building would be semi-private, two beds each. Only 72 of the 77 bedrooms would be used by residents, who would stay at the facility only while enrolled in a clinic program. An average stay is about 30 days, the application says.

Residents would not be allowed to have personal vehicles. All transportation to and from the clinics would be in vans. According to the proposal, residents would attend clinic programs from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., would be allowed to see visitors at the clinic on Saturdays and, with supervision, at the new location on Sundays.

On-duty staff would be present at all times and would make rounds every 30 minutes, the proposal says.

In 1991, the state enacted legislation creating a moratorium on new nursing home beds. This year, a public act extended that moratorium to 2016. Stonington Behavioral Health, Inc. says its proposal should be accepted because the land "cannot be reasonably developed for any permitted use within the district."

The organization also states in the application that the proposed use is similar to the previous use, but "less intense," and will not impair the "essential existing character of the area" nor conflict with the general purpose and intent of the town's zoning regulations.

Calls to Stonington Behavioral Health CEO William Aniskovich and the organization's lawyer, Thomas Londregan, were not returned.

j.hanckel@theday.com

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