Fiorentini said the city has hired outside legal counsel to advise them on the matter and that he is looking for more details about Spectrum’s plans. He said he has requested a meeting with Spectrum’s local lawyer, Timothy Schiavoni, to discuss the proposal.
“We’re open to talking to them,” the mayor said. “We’re going to do everything we can to protect the city and our residents, but in the end we are bound by the law just like they are.”
Spectrum’s position is that it is not required to follow the city’s zoning regulations or apply for a special permit from the City Council to open the clinic because the company is a non-profit educational corporation.
“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 the city.
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 non-profit educational corporations.
Holtzman’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 city is also disputing Spectrum’s assertion that it qualifies as a non-profit educational corporation under state law.
“If you believe there is additional information specifically establishing that the primary and dominant use of the property is for educational purposes, I would be prepared to consider such additional information,” Osborne wrote.
Holtzman’s letter to the city includes a Land Court decision affirming that the program Spectrum plans to open in Haverhill is “an educational purpose” covered by the Dover Amendment.