Planning Board OKs Contested Detox Facility

November 28, 2018

An artist's rendering of a 48-bed drug and alcohol detox facility proposed at 362 Middlesex Ave. in Wilmington. COURTESY RENDERING Sun staff photos can be ordered by visiting our SmugMug site.

WILMINGTON -- The Planning Board approved the vigorously contested plan for a proposed detox facility on Middlesex Avenue at a recent meeting.

The proposal for a 48-bed facility is now a step closer to possibly opening its doors at 362 Middlesex Ave. to help those suffering from drug and alcohol addiction.

For nearly a year, those representing the project have gone before the Planning Board. The next step will be a hearing before the Zoning Board of Appeals in December in the hope of receiving a special permit. Hearings before the Zoning Board of Appeals have been postponed since Feb. 14.

Many residents have voiced their opposition to the project for numerous reasons, one being the location. The proposed detox facility is near a train station, a liquor store and a residential area. A number of residents rose during the last Planning Board meeting to comment on the project. Planning Board Chair Michael Sorrentino asked that comments be limited to the site plan review.

Anthony Saragosa took issue with the proximity of homes to the proposed facility.

“I couldn’t find anything close where there’s that many houses,” Saragosa said. “There’s two instances where I saw one house that was anywhere near where these seven houses will be to a new structure. And it just seems atypical to Wilmington.”

Saragosa said the proposal looks like an urban design in a suburban setting.

“We understand that, but it meets the zoning for that area,” Sorrentino said.

MJ Byrnes is a School Committee member and member of the Concerns Citizens of Wilmington, a group formed to oppose this project. She questioned whether a building this specific would create a hardship for potential future tenants.

Valerie Gingrich, the town’s director of Planning & Conservation, said any future tenants would have to make the site work for the allowed uses in that zone.

Selectman Mike McCoy has opposed the proposal from the beginning. He led a citizen-driven petition article for last December’s Special Town Meeting to limit medical facilities that require overnight stays, including detox centers, to industrial zones. The paperwork to freeze the zoning at that site for eight years was submitted prior to the Special Town Meeting, making this project exempt from the new zoning voted on at that meeting.

McCoy urged the Planning Board to reach out to get the opinion of town counsel on the project. The board did not take action to pursue that suggestion.

“We definitely need to help those folks when it comes to detoxification from drugs and alcohol,” McCoy said. “But it comes down to one word: location.”

The Planning Board unanimously approved the definitive subdivision plan, the site plan and the storm water management permit associated with the project. There were many conditions associated with the approval.

McCoy said the Planning Board’s decision does not come as a surprise because the board’s role is to make the approval if it falls in line with zoning rules and regulations. Now, he said it is up to the Zoning Board of Appeals.

“I think they need to take a look at several issues,” McCoy said of the ZBA. “Number one is the safety and wellbeing of the inhabitants and number two is whether this is harmonious to the neighborhood.”

The Zoning Board of Appeals is set to have a hearing on the project on Wednesday, Dec. 12. The last ZBA hearing on this project spanned over three hours as resident after resident rose to speak out against the proposed detox facility.

ZBA secretary Toni LaRivee said the hearing will take place at the Town Hall auditorium because a large crowd is expected.

Follow Kori Tuitt on Twitter @KoriTuitt.

Update hourly