Thursday night, more than 100 Waterford residents filled the auditorium in Town Hall to protest a proposal by the Stonington Institute to turn 171 Rope Ferry Road into a temporary housing facility for up to 144 men fighting substance abuse.
“I live across the street from a nuclear power plant and that doesn’t bother me,” said Waterford resident Charles McCarthy, who lives on Rope Ferry Road. “But this gives me some concern.”
The Stonington Institute needs to get a use variance approved by Waterford’s Zoning Board of Appeals to use 171 Rope Ferry Road, which was a nursing home for more than 40 years but has sat vacant for the last two, as a temporary housing facility for men fighting addictions to substance abuse. Thursday night, the Zoning Board of Appeals held a public hearing on the matter, and dozens of Waterford residents spoke against the proposal.
“Our issue tonight is this is not the appropriate location for this type of facility,” said Thomas Collier, an attorney who spoke against the application.
The Stonington Institute is proposing to turn the 77-room facility into temporary housing for up to 144 men fighting addictions to substance abuse. Right now, the Stonington Institute houses men in 13 different sober houses throughout southeastern Connecticut, and this proposal would consolidate all of the housing into one location.
The men will go to treatment during the day, and then come back to the facility at night. They will receive no treatment for their addiction at the facility itself, and the average stay for a man there would be 30 days.
The Stonington Institute, through its attorney Thomas Londregan, argued the Zoning Board of Appeals should change the use allowed in the zone 171 Rope Ferry Road is in to accommodate the facility because the use is similar to a nursing home. Londregan said both the nursing home and this facility provide room and board, and argued it is a less intense use than a nursing home.
“At its core, the proposed use is a residential use,” Londregan said. “Recovering alcoholics have the right to live and sleep in a residential zone and should not be limited to a commercial zone or any other zone.”
Members of the Zoning Board of Appeals did raise concerns with the proposal. Board member Cathy Newlin said her in-laws had a sober home placed near their house, and police activity greatly increased thereafter.
“I think renovating a property and cleaning up a property is a wonderful thing,” Newlin said. “But I also have concerns.”
The Zoning Board of Appeals still needs to receive a report by the Planning and Zoning Commission before it can act on the proposal. The board voted to continue the public hearing on the use variance to their next meeting, which is February 7th.