Waterford urges denial of sober living site

Waterford - The Planning and Zoning Commission on Monday recommended that the Zoning Board of Appeals deny Stonington Institute's proposal to turn a vacant nursing home on Rope Ferry Road into housing for 144 men in drug and substance abuse treatment programs.

The Zoning Board of Appeals is scheduled to continue its public hearing on the issue Thursday at 6:30 p.m. and then vote on the application following the public hearing at 7 p.m.

In its recommendations, the commission states that the proposed facility is not a reasonable accommodation in the zone. The commission referred to the town's Fair Housing Act, where a group of not more than five people living together, but whom are not necessarily related by blood or marriage, shall be considered a family for the purpose of the FHA regulation if the residence is not less than 1,500 square feet of living area.

The commission writes that under the FHA, the proposed Stonington Institute facility "lacks therapeutic care, has transient boarding house use - because it has a 30-day stay limit - and will create additional security and police expense to the Town."

Stonington Institute, now Stonington Behavioral Health Inc., submitted a proposal to the town in December requesting a use variance change for the property, which would allow the purchase, improvement and occupation of the building.

The organization is seeking a variance change 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.

The proposal states that as a temporary dwelling for the men in the treatment program, only 72 of the available 77 bedrooms in the former convalescent home would be used, with two beds in each room.

In the Planning and Zoning Commission's set of recommendations, members questioned why a larger group setting like the one being proposed has not been proposed before and how such a large group setting would work. Members also questioned what types of improvements are proposed to the facility and whether the proposed use can even be accommodated in the building.

If the Zoning Board of Appeals does approve the use variance, the commission did provide a set of 11 potential approval conditions. Those include but are not limited to a review of existing lighting and impact off site, 30-minute bed checks, limitations on time of deliveries to the kitchen, screening and fencing of adjacent properties, on site surveillance, lights out at 11 p.m., all exit doors alarmed and round the clock security.

According to the proposal, residents would not be allowed to have personal vehicles. All transportation to and from the clinics would be in vans. According to the application residents would attend off-site clinic programs from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.



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