Methadone clinic proposal rejected Zoning official agrees with Loreley residents' concerns about crime

October 16, 1997|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,SUN STAFF

A Baltimore County zoning official has rejected plans for a private, for-profit methadone clinic in rural Loreley, agreeing with residents and politicians who said it would draw crime to the lightly patrolled area near the Harford County line.

"Great! We're elated about it," Larry Lee, president of the Bowerman-Loreley Beach Community Association, said about the decision Tuesday by Deputy County Zoning Commissioner Timothy M. Kotroco, an area native. "Maybe it's about time they started listening to people's needs."

C. William Clark, attorney for the proposed center's operators, said no decision has been reached on whether the decision would be challenged before the county Board of Appeals. "We're disappointed with the result," he said.

He said Kotroco's decision to deny zoning approval was "deficient," adding that the clinic "clearly met with the definition" of a medical office under the zoning laws.

Definition not met

Kotroco, however, said the clinic did not meet that definition. He also disqualified it for a special zoning exception as a community care center under a provision that says such a use must not threaten "the health, safety and general welfare" of a community.

Kotroco said he was persuaded by the arguments of residents that the proposed site, in the 11400 block of Pulaski Highway, is patrolled lightly because it is rural and on a dividing line between the White Marsh and Essex police precincts.

He also agreed that addicts might loiter in the area or burglarize the office to get the addictive synthetic heroin substitute.

But Walter A. Smith, a proposed operator of the clinic, said his partnership operates two similar clinics, in Landover and Wheaton, without any problems.

Drug dispensed in morning

The private clinic could choose only clients who can afford to pay, unlike public clinics, which must take all addicts, Smith said.

Methadone would be only part of the help offered to addicts, he said, and would be dispensed only in the morning.

Todd Rosendale, policy chief for the Maryland Alcohol and Drug Abuse Administration, also disagreed with claims that the clinic would increase crime.

"National data indicates that crime goes down around methadone clinics," he said.

He also said the need for such clinics is greater than ever, fueled by an increase in the purity of heroin on the street and its popularity with middle-class users. "The heroin epidemic will just get worse and worse," he said.

County officials are working on a change in zoning laws that would identify where methadone clinics would be allowed and under what conditions. Several attempts to open new clinics in the last few years have been defeated by local opposition.

The clinic's proponents have 30 days to file an appeal.

Pub Date: 10/16/97

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