Planners want time to review clinic issues BALTIMORE COUNTY

April 17, 1993|By Patrick Gilbert | Patrick Gilbert,Staff Writer

The Baltimore County Planning Board has angrily rejected TC Hayden administration recommendation that zoning laws not be used to regulate private for-profit methadone treatment clinics.

The Hayden administration had cited newly passed state legislation and commitments from a state official as reasons for its recommendation.

The county law department also had expressed concern about singling out the clinics for regulation through zoning laws.

Planning Board members, who met Thursday night, were angry that the administration did not want to study the issue in depth. They also felt they were being pressured into making an emergency decision.

The board voted to explore establishing ground rules that would allow the clinics to get official or unofficial approval from the county.

"I'm steaming, I'm really boiling," said Board Chairman Harold G. Reid. "This is far too important an issue for this board to act now without some very careful review. To do otherwise would jeopardize the credibility of this board."

Councilman Vincent J. Gardina, D-5th, sparked the controversy by introducing a resolution asking the planning staff to report on the possibility of making the clinics special exceptions requiring a public hearing and the zoning commissioner's approval.

The clinics are more controversial than other drug treatment centers because they dispense methadone, a synthetic narcotic that satisfies an addict's heroin craving.

Methadone clinics, as a medical office, are permitted in business and manufacturing zoning districts. As long as the clinic receives licenses from the federal Food and Drug Administration, the federal Drug Enforcement Administration and certification from the state Drug Abuse Administration, there is little the county can do to stop a clinic.

According to Mike Gimbel, director of the county's Office of Substance Abuse, private for-profit methadone centers are becoming popular throughout the country. The county, using state funds, operates a nonprofit methadone center in Timonium.

Mr. Gardina's resolution, co-sponsored by councilmen William A. Howard IV, R-6th, and Donald C. Mason, D-7th, came after several for-profit methadone centers tried to locate on the county's east side.

As a result of those attempts, the state legislature passed a bill this session requiring the state to get comment from local government and citizens before a drug or alcohol center is certified.

The bill is awaiting Gov. William Donald Schaefer's signature.

In addition, Nelson J. Sabatini, secretary of health and human services, has told County Executive Roger B. Hayden that his department would not certify methadone clinics without some limited approval from the county.

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