Peterborough rehab center approved

  • Peterborough Zoning Board Chair Dario Carrara listens to feedback a on a proposed variance to allow the use of a drug and alcohol detox facility in downtown Peterborough on Monday. Staff photo by Ashley Saari—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

  • Attorney Jim Callahan makes final arguments in support of allowing the use of a dexot center in downtown Peterborough. Staff photo by Ashley Saari—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

  • Jamie Hamilton of Peterborough speaks in favor of allowing a medical detox center downtown in Peterborough.  Staff photo by Ashley Saari—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

  • Mary Drew speaks in favor of allowing a medical detox center downtown in Peterborough.  Staff photo by Ashley Saari—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Tuesday, June 12, 2018 2:36PM

The Peterborough Zoning Board of Adjustment approved a variance request Monday night that allows a 64-bed drug and alcohol detox and step-down center to operate in the village commercial district.

The detox center is proposed to be located on a piece of property a few hundred feet off Route 202, on a piece of property located behind the Peterborough Shopping Plaza.

At a meeting last week, the zoning board had agreed with a ruling by the town’s code enforcement officer that the rehabilitation center is not an allowed use in the district. That decision lead to the developers, 1810 Realty, to apply for a variance, or a one-time exception, to the town’s zoning rules.

Monday  night, the board continued the meeting from last week in order to gain input from the town police and fire chiefs, which were submitted by letter.

The continued meeting also brought out additional residents to speak both for an against the project. 

A petition signed by about 15 people was submitted to the board, objecting the placement of the property – to close to a liquor store and pharmacy and to the RiverMead retirement community – and that the potential impacts had not been made clear to Peterborough residents.

John Petrou, a resident of RiverMead, agreed that he had concerns about the detox center being located so close by. He suggested that the board put conditions on the approval.

But the majority of people who spoke at the meeting said they were in favor of additional beds for drug and alcohol treatment.

“I appreciate the concerns of people that are worried, but the needs of people with substance abuse disorder seeking treatment – those needs are paramount,” said Christine Howe, who has worked as a nurse and a teacher at South Meadow School. “Please, please give this variance.”

Jamie Hamilton, who is the rector at The All Saints' Episcopal Church, said that Peterborough could become a “beacon of hope” for those with addiction. She added, the people who would benefit from the treatment center are already in the community, and denying local treatment would be far worse for the community. 

“If we don’t address these issues, the safety issue can backfire,” Hamilton said.

Jim Cleary, of Bennington, told the board that his stepson has been in recovery for two years, but during his addiction he had to be sent out of state three times for treatment.

“If we don’t increase facilities in this state, we’re going to lose more people,” he said.

In order to approve a variance, the zoning board must rule that the application meets five criteria: That the spirit of the ordinance is observed, that substantial justice will be served, that it will not devalue surrounding properties and that denying the variance would cause unnecessary hardship.

During their discussion, the board agreed that although healthcare facilities – which the majority of the board agreed this was – are not allowed in the village commercial district, they are allowed in other commercial districts. Since the surrounding properties are all commercial, the use fits the neighborhood and would not be disruptive to residences or devalue property, the board ruled.

And, the board agreed, the benefits provided to the community by having addiction services would outweigh any damages done. And while they acknowledged that during the hearing both on Monday and last week, residents had voiced safety concerns, the letter submitted by the police chief didn’t bear out any systemic safety concerns. 

“I think this is a great gain to the public,” said board member Loretta Laurenitis. 

The board voted unanimously to grant the variance. The detox center will still have to complete a site plan review process with the Planning Board before it will be able to begin construction.


Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 244 or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter @AshleySaariMLT.