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Waterford PZC to review sober house plan

By Julianne Hanckel

Publication: The Day

Published January 08. 2013 4:00AM

Waterford - Members of the Planning and Zoning Commission agreed on Monday to prepare an advisory recommendation letter to the Zoning Board of Appeals on a proposal to turn a former Rope Ferry Road nursing home into housing for 144 men in drug and substance abuse treatment programs.

The advisory recommendation is the commission's official opinion on the issue, but the zoning board does not have to abide by it, town Planner Mark Wujtewicz said during the meeting.

Last week's Zoning Board of Appeals public hearing on the issue drew a standing-room only crowd of residents who were largely opposed to the proposal by Stonington Behavioral Health Inc.

The public hearing was continued until Feb. 7 and the Planning and Zoning Commission has until then to provide its recommendations to the Zoning Board of Appeals. The commission's next meeting is scheduled for Jan. 28 at 7 p.m.

Planning Director Thomas Wagner advised the commission to address whether Stonington Behavioral Health has addressed questions that include further information on the extent of the marketing of the vacant property; whether the proposed use can be accommodated in the existing building; and how a large group setting would work and whether it's been done before.

Stonington Behavioral Health is seeking a use variance to change to the 171 Rope Ferry Road property into a 77-bed facility.

In a memo to Wagner, Police Chief Murray J. Pendleton said he is gathering "service call information from law enforcement agencies, including the State Police, in several local communities in which 'sober houses' have been established by Stonington Institute, now known as Stonington Behavioral Health Inc."

He said there is potential for the proposed facility to "have a substantial impact on public safety services in general, not just police services."

In the memo, Pendleton also said it is important to review the number of and types of calls for emergency services to establishments run by Stonington Behavioral Health. He said there are several issues that must be addressed and questions that must be answered in relation to calls for ambulance service and public safety.

He said he would inform the Planning and Zoning Commission when he receives the information.

j.hanckel@theday.com

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