HAVERHILL — A health care provider says it plans to open a methadone clinic at 100 Plaistow Road and there is nothing the city can do to stop it.
Spectrum Health Systems received a building permit from the city in August to begin renovating a building near the Plaistow, N.H. line that was formerly The Children’s Learning Center daycare. The site is in a commercial area packed with restaurants and other businesses.
An Oct. 22 letter from Spectrum’s lawyer said the nonprofit organization is not required to follow the city’s zoning regulations or apply for a special permit from the City Council because it is an educational corporation.
Haverhill has rejected two prior proposals for methadone clinics under a process laid out in its zoning code that requires applicants to go through a public review and obtain a special permit from the City Council.
Spectrum’s letter said the clinic will not only administer methadone to patients addicted to heroin, but also provide educational services such as counseling and teaching independent living skills. Methadone is a synthetic drug that relieves the symptoms of opiate withdrawal.
“The Dover Amendment exempts education programs like Spectrum’s from limitations imposed by zoning ordinances,” reads a letter from attorney Paul Holtzman of the Krokidas & Bluestein law firm to Haverhill Building Inspector Richard Osborne.
The Dover Amendment is a state law that prohibits zoning ordinances from regulating the use of land or structures for educational purposes on land owned or leased by nonprofit educational corporations.
Haverhill officials aren’t quite ready to take Spectrum’s word for it that they have no say in the clinic opening, however.
Mayor James Fiorentini said he opposes a methadone clinic at the Plaistow Road location and that the city has retained outside counsel in preparation of a possible legal fight.