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Sanford Town Council Closer To Clinic Siting Rules

http://blog.intheregister.com/2008/10/02/town-council-closer-to-clinic-siting-rules-oct-2-2008.aspx

By Renee Worthing

October 2, 2008   Sanford officials met to continue to hammer out the details of a proposed methadone clinic ordinance.

An emergency moratorium passed during the December 4 town council meeting  gave officials until March 3, 2008 to “thoughtfully respond” to Colonial Management Group’s interest in opening a methadone treatment center in Lower Mid-Town Mall. The Florida-based company operates 54 private outpatient substance abuse centers nationwide. Near the moratorium expiration, it was extended to November allowing officials more time to create an ordinance that would regulate where clinics can be located and how they operated.

A draft ordinance, prepared by several town officials, including Sanford Police Chief Tom Connolly, Town Manager Mark Green, Sanford Development Director Jim Gulnac and Goodall Hospital President and CEO Darlene Stromstad, was discussed during the September 23 council workshop.

In drafting the ordinance, Gulnac said the zoning sub-committee had to define and classify activity that would take place at a methadone clinic in order to determine if it fit in established zones. Because Sanford zoning regulations do not have “anything close” to describing activity in a methadone clinic, town officials turned to the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS_ which categorizes methadone clinics as “outpatient substance abuse centers.” The classification further categorizes patients of methadone clinics as handicapped. Because of the handicap classification, Gulnac said the town must be very careful not to create an ordinance that appears to discriminate.

“I is a protected class,” Sanford Attorney Bryan Dench said. “You can’t say you will permit ‘those people.’ That would be illegal.”

Dench said services for people needing treatment must be allowed d the centers must be given a “reasonable opportunity” to establish in Sanford.

“It’s important to demonstrate where the facility will be allowed,” he said, adding restrictions must have a factual basis.

Gulnac said the zoning sub-committee worked to determine potential locations for a methadone clinic in town, but said it must be away from churches and places frequented by children such as schools, day care centers and parks.

“Non-residential, business zones are where we suggest,” Gulnac said.

Using a map of Sanford, a half-mile buffer zone around every church, school, daycare and park in town as well as residential neighborhoods was marked. What remained were three areas in south Sanford – the area of Jagger Mill Road, Route 4 near Sand Pond Road and the industrial park area of Smada Drive, Eagle Drive and Cyro Road.

Green said he was in favor of keeping the methadone clinic out of the downtown area where officials are striving to revitalize the area.

“There is plenty of space at Adams Park,” he said.

Dench said the propose ordinance appeared reasonable, but says the town should be cautious because courts have found ordinances that were designed to keep methadone clinics out of other towns were discriminatory in nature.

Gulnac also said the ordinance would make it clear that any clinic would have to apply for an annual license to operate, which would allow the town to deal with any problems that crop up.

The proposed ordinance is slated for a public hearing October 7.

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