New Bedford ZBA Continues Methadone Clinic Vote to November to Allow for In-Person Input
NEW BEDFORD (1420 WBSM) — The hearing for a special permit to allow for a medical clinic in downtown New Bedford that would offer treatments such as methadone and Vivitrol has been pushed back to November to allow for the meeting to be held in public.
Recovery Connection Centers of America was seeking the special permit in order to open the clinic at 268-270 Union Street, in the storefronts that currently house Fall River Pawnbrokers and formerly held the Law Offices of Dussault and Gomes.
The New Bedford Zoning Board of Appeals was set to hear the matter on Thursday, October 20, during a meeting that was held remotely via Zoom.
In his weekly appearance on WBSM Friday morning, New Bedford City Council President Ian Abreu said that it was continued to the next ZBA meeting on Thursday, November 17 and will be held in person.
“The legal counsel and attorneys for Recovery Connection Centers of America had conversations with our solicitor’s office, and in the full spirit of transparency, it was decided to continue the item and the matter to our November 17 Zoning Board of Appeals meeting, which will be in person at the New Bedford Free Public Library.”
The meeting will be held at 6 p.m. in the upstairs conference room.
“This issue was too important to have on Zoom,” Abreu said, noting that he, Mayor Jon Mitchell, and most of his colleagues on the New Bedford City Council spoke out on the need to have an in-person hearing.
“I’m glad both parties agreed that this was the most appropriate action to take,” he said. “This makes it an even playing field for everybody. The public knows about it way in advance so you can adjust your schedules accordingly.”
Although neither the mayor nor the city council can stop the clinic from being located downtown – only the ZBA has that authority – they have gone on record opposing the location.
“My position is that’s not the place for that kind of facility,” Mayor Mitchell said in a recent appearance on WBSM.
“We do see a number of social ills associated with those facilities. People hanging around, a black market tends to form around them,” he said. “And this is a for-profit company, and the landlord is yet another out-of-town landlord who is not likely to be responsive to what I believe would be the city’s unequivocal opposition to this.”
Mitchell said if the ZBA denies the special permit, Recovery Connection Centers of America will likely try to appeal the decision based on the Dover Amendment, a Massachusetts General Law that allows for exemptions to zoning restrictions in certain situations, and that there could be other ways for it to appeal.
“Certain types of medical facilities under federal law override local zoning restrictions. That’s going to be the argument you’ll hear from Recovery Connection Centers of America, and I can tell you that’s something that our legal team is looking very closely at right now,” Mitchell said.
“My feeling is we want to make sure people are getting services they need, but that is not the place,” he said. “It is clear the operator and the landlord don’t have the city’s best interest at heart.”
The city council also voted at its October 13 meeting to go on the record in opposition of the clinic being located downtown. The vote was 9-1, with City Councilor at Large Shane Burgo voting against the motion, and Ward 3 Councilor Hugh Dunn absent.
At least one member of the Zoning Board of Appeals, Leo Choquette Jr., is on the record as being opposed to granting the special permit.
"I am against the meth clinic being placed on Union Street," he told WBSM’s Barry Richard. "There are far more economically responsible locations, Pope's Island being one of them."