Zoning Change Will Allow Mental Heath Hospital Plan

The Town Council approved a zoning amendment allowing hospitals as a permitted use in the Gateway Business District during the Dec. 18 meeting. Allowing a plan for a mental heath hospital to move forward.
It was explained by Assistant Town Manager, Kellie Caron, that currently they have a definition of what a hospital is as part of their zoning codes, however, they don’t have any place that it is an allowable use, outside of Planned Use Developments.
“Recently this has presented some challenges,” she said, explaining that they have had discussions with potential developers, who are looking to bring those types of uses to town.
One of the potential uses could be a psychiatric hospital. Representatives from Solution Health spoke to the Town Council during the public hearing, along with Deputy Health and Human Services Commissioner, Morissa Henn.
“My clients are looking to develop a medical facility that caters to behavioral health treatment,” Ari Pollack, an attorney representing the entity, said during the meeting.
He said since the town’s zoning administrator determined it was considered a hospital, it was determined that they needed to get a zoning amendment.
Town Council Chair, John Farrell, told the Planning Board during a meeting when the proposed amendment was discussed, that he had asked for the process to take place like normal, with the zoning change being vetted through the board process, who makes recommendations, before the Town Council has the final say.
Caron noted that the Planning Board voted 7-0-1 to recommend approval of the zoning amendment, with Town Councilor, Ted Combes, abstaining, to reserve his vote for the Town Council.
Henn gave a number of statistics during the meeting, including that about one in five residents of the state are living with a mental health and or substance abuse issue. She said in order to get people the care they need, one of the critical solutions will be to get more beds available.
“We simply do not have enough acute inpatient psychiatric beds in this state,” she said.
Henn said the state is “very supportive of the location,” and the state would be investing $15 million into the hospital project.
In total, the hospital project is expected to yield 144 beds, for all populations.
It was noted by Farrell and others that while the public hearing consisted of comments regarding the potential proposed project, the point of the amendment would apply to any future uses in the district, and it would still need to go through the Planning Board process before any project is approved or not.
Fire Chief, Bo Butler, said oftentimes when companies come to town, they draw on town services and then the town doesn’t get anything in return. He added that as their process through various town boards goes on, he wants to work with them on coming up with a plan in order to have a collaboration together.
Pollack said they would do so and also noted they would be paying taxes, since they would be a for profit hospital. He also noted they expect to create an estimated 270 jobs if their future plans are approved.

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