Tighter zoning of clinics debated

Drug center workers defend Pikesville plan

April 10, 2002|By Andrew A. Green | Andrew A. Green,SUN STAFF

Drug treatment advocates and community groups squared off yesterday over a proposal to tighten zoning for methadone clinics and other medical facilities in Baltimore County.

Supporters of the bill, which applies to centers for drug treatment, dialysis, outpatient surgery and other medical uses, told County Council members at their work session that such businesses bring traffic and parking problems to their communities because they can be open at unusual hours and serve large numbers of people.

The bill was sparked by proposals for two clinics in Pikesville that would dispense methadone, a drug used to control withdrawal symptoms for heroin addicts.

Drug treatment workers who spoke at the meeting said the bill merely reinforces social prejudices that keep addicts from receiving treatment.

"This is not about parking issues. This is not about zoning issues. This is not about protecting children on bus stops. This is about not putting a drug treatment facility in my back yard," said Chip Silverman, a consultant to one of the proposed methadone clinics.

Alan P. Zukerberg, president of the Pikesville-Greenspring Community Coalition, and other leaders of community groups said they don't have a problem with drug treatment centers - or any of the other medical facilities that the bill would regulate. They argued that the clinics should be kept away from residential neighborhoods, many of which are choked with traffic.

Six of seven council members have signed on as co-sponsors.

A similar restriction by the county was struck down in U.S. District Court on the grounds that treating methadone clinics differently from other medical facilities was a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Ellen M. Weber, an attorney with the Legal Action Center who argued that case against the county, said this bill would also violate the court's order.

Kevin Kamenetz, a Pikesville-Randallstown Democrat who drafted the bill, said he studied the court's ruling and believes his proposal complies with it.

"The bill makes no mention whatsoever of the words `methadone' or `addiction,'" he said. "It treats similar facilities that have the opportunity to operate seven days a week, 24 hours a day and see large amounts of people in a short period of time, all the same."

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