Neighbors hope to prevent dismissal of Fox Hill lawsuit
Camden — The group of neighbors who filed a lawsuit to stop development of a residential alcohol treatment center in Camden June 5 filed an objection to a motion to dismiss filed by the defendants in the case.
In U.S. District Court May 23, attorneys representing Fox Hill investors and McLean Hospital filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit brought by neighbors of the 235 Bay View St. property.
Investors in Fox Hill are seeking to establish a high-end alcohol and substance abuse treatment center on a 13-acre property in Camden in partnership with Massachusetts-based McLean Hospital. Following a lengthy Planning Board process, selectmen rejected sending to voters a special exception zoning change that would have allowed a 12-bed facility in the Coastal-Residential zone. Attorneys for the investors then announced a scaled down plan they say falls under a "Community Living Arrangement."
The motion to dismiss claims the plaintiffs — Undercliff Cottage LLC, The Phelan 2006 Family Trust, Charles and Julie Cawley, Parker S. Laite Sr. and Friends of Camden Maine LLC — lack standing as well.
In the objection filed this week, the neighbors group stated the investors in the property changed to a CLA in the "hope this facade will salvage the enormous profit they had envisioned for their facility. Permitting this venture to go forward would be an extreme perversion of the fundamental purpose of the FHAA [Fair Housing Amendments Act]."
The group argues the FHAA's intent is to ensure equal housing opportunities to disadvantaged people who might otherwise be denied.
"That purpose and goal are not fulfilled by persons paying $60,000 per month for a short-term holiday isolated from the local community," the objection states.
As in the original lawsuit, the group states CLA uses are allowed in several districts in Camden, but not in the Coastal-Residential zone in which Fox Hill is located.
"In order for the defendants to establish that their proposed use of the Bay View property is protected by the FHAA, the must establish that: (1) their patients are 'disabled;' (2) the proposed usage of the Bay View Street property is necessary to provide their patients with equal opportunity for housing; (3) the proposed usage of the Bay View Street property constitutes a 'residence' for their patients; and (4) the town of Camden has refused to make reasonable accommodation to the patients to be served by defendants, despite the fact that the town of Camden has four other districts which expressly allow 'residential treatment facilities'," the objection states. " ... When faced with opposition to a 'private residential treatment facility' for 14 patients, defendants purported to transform it into a 'community living facility' for eight transient visitors. This sleight of hand is not what the FHAA and 30-A MRSA 4357-A were enacted to protect."
The objection is signed by Rockport attorney Dana Strout, with counsel listed as David Burger of Robinson Brog Leinwand Greene Genovese and Gluck based in New York.
A judge has not yet addressed the original lawsuit or the motion to dismiss.
Courier Publications Editor Stephanie Grinnell can be reached at 236-8511 or by email at email@example.com.