Williamstown ZBA Continues Vote on Chemical Dependency Center Again

By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff
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WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The Zoning Board of Appeals continued an application to operate a chemical dependency rehabilitation facility in the former Sweet Brook Nursing Home on Cold Spring Road for the third — and likely final — time on Thursday.

Last month, the ZBA continued the petition to a third meeting hoping that the applicant, Williamstown Recovery Realty LLC, and abutter Sweetwood retirement community, could reach an understanding about the fencing and landscaping plans.

Williamstown Recovery partner Sean Stewart reported that he and Sweetwood attorney Karla Chaffee had discussed site plan alterations in the interim.  The two agreed on a split rail fence on the property and tree replacement where there is a gap in the tree line.

The issue is that the board did not have a site plan that reflected these alterations in front of them. For this reason, they continued the decision to Sept. 15.  

Within the plan, they would like specifics about the fencing and the trees.

"We've permitted things before the site plan was submitted and then we'll get the site plan and it was not what we thought we had permitted," board member Keith Davis said.

"I'm nervous with passing something and not having the actual site plan in place. I'm in favor of the petition but I would like to see what is proposed."

The board is essentially in agreement with everything but the missing site plan, which Stewart said he could submit by Monday.

"I think if the applicants know that they don't have to come back with high anxiety," Chair Andrew Hoar said.

Chaffee suggested that it may be helpful for the board to provide an example of an acceptable site plan to the applicant so that he has guidance.

It was suggested that a special meeting is held for the decision, as members expressed that they wanted to finally put it to rest, but there was no room in the town calendar.



Owner Williamstown Recovery Realty LLC intends to use the building as an inpatient chemical dependency/co-occurring disorder treatment facility with Williamstown Recovery LLC as the operator.  The facility aims to provide medical supervision, assessment, and clinical services for adult men and women.

It will fall under the same use as the previous nursing home and will not require any change to the current utilities.

The property falls under RR3 for institutional use and its use as an inpatient behavioral health-care facility required a special permit from the ZBA. Only superficial interior improvements are proposed to transform it to the new use.

Stone Hill Road resident Paul Haklisch, who has raised concerns with the proposal and questioned the applicant's qualifications at both preceding hearings, again urged the ZBA to "hit the pause button" on the proposal.

He said that the applicants have never operated a chemical dependency center before and that it is not clear who is responsible.

"We as a committee as participants are doing a gross disservice to the community if we give a license to people who aren't qualified," Haklisch said.

Board members pointed out that there are state qualifications that the applicant has to meet before opening the facility and that it is not under the ZBA's purview to make that decision.  

"We have another month to continue to think about this. We have a month for Mr. Stewart and his organization to prepare the materials we've requested, to get those materials to miss Chaffee, for people, and to [Community Development Director Andrew Groff] to distribute appropriately, in a timely manner so that we have a chance to review them prior to the Sept. 15th meeting," Hoar said.

"If members of the Board want to consider [Haklisch's] concerns we encourage you to investigate that on your own and bring those concerns to our next meeting."


Tags: ZBA,   addiction recovery,   

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Williamstown Committee Begins Review of Town Charter

By Stephen DravisiBerkshires Staff
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The town's first Charter Review Committee began its work on Thursday with a reminder of what its mission is and, as importantly, what it is not.
 
"The only thing I want to make us conscious of is part of the charge says we don't want to become a discussion ground for current social issues," Select Board member Andy Hogeland told the group at its morning meeting at Town Hall. "Things may come in the door about sustainability or equity. That's not what the Select Board wants us to be looking at.
 
"We want to check over the engine of government. It will be the vehicle through which people can make changes. If those issues come up, we'll refer them to the Comprehensive Plan Committee or the DIRE Committee."
 
Actually, as the Charter Review Committee noted on Thursday, the charter is just one of the engines that drives town government. Other forces include town bylaws, votes of town meeting and, of course, Massachusetts General Law, which sometimes compels or overrides actions at the local level.
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