Guest column

Speak softly and carry a big stick

By Deb Dodge, spokesperson for Citizens of Camden for Responsible Zoning | Mar 13, 2014

Feb. 2, the Camden Select Board shut down Fox Hill Real Estate’s request to place a rehabilitation center at Fox Hill. Feb. 25, Fox Hill Real Estate publicly announced plans to forge ahead with their commercial enterprise. They say that they can now move forward without town approval.

So what has really changed in FHRE’s plans for Fox Hill? Nothing that we can see. They still want to shoehorn their 24/7 business into a residential zone that prohibits it. This is the same tactic that the Dunes in East Hampton, N.Y., used to open a full-service rehab facility. After having been turned down repeatedly by the town, they changed their model to a Community Living Arrangement (CLA), to allegedly house eight residents. Today they run a full-scale inpatient and outpatient rehab center in a residential neighborhood. Sound familiar?

We don't believe FHRE has found a “compromise.” We do believe they are circumventing local zoning and oversight in an end-run around the Camden voters.

There is no legal precedent in the state of Maine for a rehab facility of this nature claiming CLA status. So we have more questions than answers at this point. Also, this issue has now become a state-wide concern; If FHRE is allowed to define themselves as a CLA, then can't any commercial facility serving a protected class claim to be a CLA and proceed to open whatever business they wish in residential areas?

Quite frankly, none of FHRE’s latest claims make sense. If their crafty legal maneuvering is allowed in Camden, we will work at the local and state level to implement performance standards and accountability measures for CLA’s to prevent for-profit facilities of this size from gaining unfettered access to every neighborhood in Maine.

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