EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA


January 26, 2014

Haverhill denies methadone clinic on N.H. line

Decision sets up legal battle, first to local appeals board then possibly court

HAVERHILL — The fight is on.

The city’s building inspector has denied Spectrum Health Systems’ request for an occupancy permit to open a methadone clinic at 100 Plaistow Road near the Plaistow border. The site is in a commercial area packed with restaurants and other businesses.

The city’s denial follows news that the Plaistow Board of Selectmen voted last week to oppose the proposed methadone clinic, recent comments by Haverhill Mayor James Fiorentini that he is against the location and opposition by residents in both communities that includes an online petition signed by more than 250 people.

Spectrum received a building permit from the city in August to begin renovating a building near the Plaistow line that was formerly The Children’s Learning Center day care. The company filed Jan. 2 for an occupancy permit to open for business.

Building Inspector Richard Osborne’s Jan. 9 letter to the company states he denied the request on zoning grounds.

Osborne said the city granted Spectrum a building permit last summer based on information from the company that it planned to use the building for business and education above grade 12. He said he learned only after granting the building permit that Spectrum planned to use the building as a clinic for “health care services including drug abuse treatment and rehabilitation.”

“The proposed use for other than an educational training facility was not made known until after the building permit was issued,” Osborne wrote.

The Plaistow Road property is in a commercial highway zone in which “drug or alcohol rehabilitation centers/rehabilitation centers and health care services” are not allowed, according the city’s zoning code.

“Based on the information Spectrum has provided thus far, it does not appear that the primary and dominant purpose of the property qualifies for a zoning exemption,” Osborne said.

City Solicitor William Cox Jr. said the Spectrum has 30 days from the date of the denial letter to appeal the building inspector’s decision to the city’s Zoning Board of Appeals. If Spectrum’s local appeal fails, the company could then challenge the city’s decision in court, Cox said.

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