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Waterford Residents Unite Against Proposed Drug Rehab Facility

Dozens of Waterford residents met in the Waterford library Wednesday to voice their displeasure with a proposal by the Stonington Institute to turn 171 Rope Ferry Road into a temporary home for up to 144 men fighting addictions to drugs or alcohol.

Wednesday night, about 75 Waterford residents gathered in the Waterford Public Library to discuss their opposition to a proposal by the Stonington Institute to turn 171 Rope Ferry Road into a temporary home for up to 144 adult men who are recovering from drug addictions.

“My message is I do have sympathy, but this is not the right location for this kind of facility,” said David Peabody, who lives on Spithead Road near 171 Rope Ferry Road and organized the meeting.

171 Rope Ferry Road was a nursing home for more than 40 years, although it has sat vacant for the past two years. The Stonington Institute is asking the Waterford Zoning Board of Appeals to change the allowed use at the property to allow for a facility that would provide temporary housing for men recovering from drug addictions.

The property sits in a residential neighborhood, across the street from St. Paul in Chains Rectory, near several youth fields and a boy scout post and less than two miles from the Dual Language & Arts Magnet Middle School. The residents at the meeting argued the facility should be put either in a heavily commercial area or in a rural area away from children.

“It is not that people are against the concept of the facility, it is people are against the location of the facility,” said Thomas Collier, a land-use attorney who lives at 201 Rope Ferry Road and went to the meeting to oppose the proposal.

The Proposal

The Stonington Institute provides health treatment services to people fighting drug addictions, including veterans. Its main campus is in North Stonington and it provides room and board to adults receiving outpatient services at 13 sober houses in southeastern Connecticut, including one in Waterford, according to an application written by attorney Thomas Londregan.

The Stonington Institute is proposing to turn 171 Rope Ferry Road into a temporary home for up to 144 adult men who are “actively receiving outpatient services for a primary substance abuse diagnosis at a Clinic,” according to the application. The men would be housed in 72 rooms, with each room having two beds for two men, according to the application.

The average stay for somebody at the facility would be 30 days, and staff will be checking on the men once every 30 minutes throughout the day and night, according to the application. The men would not be allowed to have vehicles at the facility, and they would be able to have guests visit on Saturdays and have supervised visitations on Sundays, according to the application.

The proposed use is not allowed in the zone. In the application, Londregan argues the proposal will “not impair the essential existing character of the area nor conflict with the general purpose and intent of the Town’s Zoning Regulations.” He said the proposed use would not cause any more traffic than what the other allowed uses would cause, would not cause any more noise or pollution and would not increase the strain on the town’s police or fire services – something many residents disagreed with.

“The parcel has been a nursing home for over 40 years and the proposed use is similar enough to not impact the character of the neighborhood in any substantially different way,” Londregan wrote. “Approving the use will result in interior/exterior aesthetic and Life Safety improvements that will improve the obvious disrepair associated with the current parcel and generate additional tax revenues for the Town.”

A receptionist at the Stonington Institute said the CEO of the institute would return a call to Patch today about the proposal.

The Opposition

Residents disagreed with nearly everything Londregan wrote explaining the need for the use change. Londregan has to prove a true hardship to warrant a change in use, when many said there are many uses allowed in the zone that are possible, he has to prove that the change of use will have no increased impact on fire or police services and not hurt property values, when residents argued it will increase the strain on fire and police services and hurt property values, and he has to prove that it keeps in-character with the neighborhood, when neighbors argued a place like that would not fit in a residential neighborhood.

“Legally, I’d be shocked if it was approved,” Collier said.

Residents were worried that the men would leave the facility and burglarize homes to pay for drugs to fuel their addictions. Fundamentally, they said the facility will bring in unstable men into a high-traffic, residential neighborhood filled with children.

“Waterford has always done a great job in separating commercial businesses and properties from their residential family neighborhoods and that is why I am completely surprised that we would consider putting a facility like this in a neighborhood where children live and play,” Toni Maynard of 186 Rope Ferry Road wrote in a letter to the Zoning Board of Appeals. “I am not opposed to providing this service to those who need it, but I DO NOT believe it belongs in a quiet neighborhood directly across the street and next door to where families live.”

The Meeting

The Zoning Board of Appeals will hold a public hearing tonight on the proposal. The meeting is at 6:30 p.m. in the Town Hall auditorium at 15 Rope Ferry Road.

MrT January 06, 2013 at 05:35 PM
They did Paul, makes no difference. 144 addicts is not what the facility is zoned for- plain and simple!!! Their own CEO was clueless about how they would structure staffing the facility with regard to staff to patient ratios and what to do with the 144 men from the hours of 3:30PM until light-out at 11pm. And Elle Jay- really? That's your stance, because there are 6 registered sex offenders within 2 miles of the building- more should be OK???
MrT January 07, 2013 at 12:36 AM
Paul, there's a house for sale next to the proposed facility. If you think it is such a safe place to house 144 addicts, feel free to move you family there. And I'll go back to caring for "our own kind" as I have every day for the past 20 years as a registered nurse. I am sorry that you feel we take such poor care of our fellow human beings, obviously all the time you spent in your previous job has left you with a poor perspective of others. Since you feel so strongly about the good granting this variance would do, I encourage you to come to February's meeting at the town hall to advocate for it.
Lyle Green January 09, 2013 at 04:06 AM
Most readers have no idea how many sober houses exist throughout the area. They are regular houses where the owner rents rooms to as many people as possible to legally rake in maximum cash.
Hillaryken February 09, 2013 at 12:09 PM
I'm confused. When did these struggling addicts become sex offenders? I may be wrong but I thought they voluntarily checked in for treatment. The argument it's across the street from that particular church has no merit given the recent events that transpired there. This is why we have mentally ill people, recovering addicts, and even veterans "roaming our streets" because no one wants them in their neighborhood! What are the crime statistics in relation to Stonington Institutes other locations? Can it be proved that property values will be lowered by such a facility? Do all of you educated citizens think in the 40 yrs the structure operated as a nursing home no crimes were being committed?
Hillaryken February 09, 2013 at 03:06 PM
I'm confused. When did these struggling addicts become sex offenders? I may be wrong but I thought they voluntarily checked in for treatment. The argument it's across the street from that particular church has no merit given the recent events that transpired there. This is why we have mentally ill people, recovering addicts, and even veterans "roaming our streets" because no one wants them in their neighborhood! What are the crime statistics in relation to Stonington Institutes other locations? Can it be proved that property values will be lowered by such a facility? Do all of you educated citizens think in the 40 yrs the structure operated as a nursing home no crimes were being committed?

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