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NASHUA – The city took another step Tuesday toward pushing drug and alcohol treatment centers out of downtown and into commercial and industrial areas along the highway corridors.
The Board of Aldermen by voice vote passed an ordinance that would restrict the location of “drug replacement therapy facilities” – specifically, methadone clinics, Mayor Donnalee Lozeau admitted – to only along portions of the F.E. Everett Turnpike, Amherst Street and other busy roadways far removed from downtown.
The ordinance was endorsed by the aldermen’s Planning and Economic Development Committee and by the city Planning Board. Besides restricting the location, the legislation sets standards for the hours of operation, outdoor advertising and the type of services provided. It also requires any new or expanded facility to obtain permits from the Planning Board.
When the ordinance first came before the Board of Aldermen in December, Lozeau admitted she rushed the bill to skirt the 120-day rule.
Once legislation is proposed, the 120-day rule prevents an individual or developer from submitting a proposal to skirt the new requirements. This gives the city a three-month window to approve the legislation.
In this case, Lozeau said she was approached by a group that wanted to establish a methadone clinic in a vacant storefront on Main Street, a proposal she opposes. Lozeau, the chief sponsor of the bill, said a treatment center would be incompatible with the city’s downtown. She has also argued that downtown treatment centers are inconsistent with the Master Plan for the city, adding that the city Planning Board voted unanimously to recommend the proposed ordinance.
However, speakers at an earlier public hearing said the proposed legislation, which would allow treatment centers only along portions of busy roadways far removed from downtown, would marginalize people needing treatment for addiction. Some speakers said it would adversely affect existing treatment locations, including the city’s two hospitals, and would lead to a disjointed approach by various agencies to treat addiction.
In particular, the legislation could hurt the efforts of Keystone Hall to find a new facility, some speakers said.
Keystone Hall, which has treated thousands of people for addiction in its 20-year tenure, is in a Pine Street Extension building in poor condition, officials of Harbor Homes Inc., a sister agency, have said.
Harbor Homes is currently negotiating to buy a building at 615 Amherst St. for Keystone Hall’s new location, said Peter Kelleher, president and chief executive officer of Harbor Homes, after the hearing.
The ordinance passed Tuesday with no discussion, except for Alderman-at-Large Mark Cookson asking Lozeau what type of drug replacement therapy facility prompted the measure.
Of the 15 aldermen present, only two appeared to oppose the ordinance in the voice vote.
Patrick Meighan can be reached at 594-6518 or email@example.com.