Decision pending on Carroll drug facility

Applicants appeal denial of new methadone center

Regional

February 02, 2004|By Hanah Cho | Hanah Cho,SUN STAFF

It will be at least a month until Westminster's Board of Zoning Appeals decides whether a methadone treatment center is allowed in the city's downtown area.

On Thursday, the three-member board wrapped up hearing two days of arguments and testimony from city officials, the applicants for the treatment center and numerous residents.

In the meantime, attorneys representing the city, the zoning administrator and the applicants are expected to have until Feb. 26 to submit closing arguments and their responses. Soon after that, the board will schedule a date to deliberate on the case. The date will be advertised 10 days before the hearing on the city's Web site.

"We'll deliberate and make a decision in a public forum," said Romeo Valianti, chairman of the Board of Zoning Appeals.

Co-applicants Brian Prichard and Neal Berch are fighting a zoning decision that prohibits them from opening a treatment center in the 200 block of E. Main St., near Washington Road. They operate three similar facilities in Charles, Frederick and Montgomery counties.

At issue is whether the proposed facility should be categorized as a professional office or as a medical clinic, which is not allowed in the downtown business zone.

After finding in October that such a treatment facility would be allowed under the city's zoning ordinance, Westminster zoning administrator Laurell Taylor reversed her decision.

Taylor initially made an incorrect decision in finding that the center was allowed on downtown Main Street, which is a mixed commercial and residential neighborhood, according to correspondence between her and Beth Pepper, an attorney representing Prichard and Berch.

Taylor later determined that medical and dental clinics are allowed only in an agricultural residential zone and in a neighborhood commercial zone.

Prichard testified Wednesday that the proposed treatment center would offer a "medication-assisted program" in a professional office setting.

The facility would provide counseling, group therapy and mental-health services only to patients enrolled in the program, said Prichard, who is the clinical supervisor at Open Arms Inc., a methadone treatment program in Waldorf.

Methadone, a synthetic opiate given to heroin addicts to alleviate withdrawal symptoms, would be dispensed from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. weekdays and for less than three hours on Saturdays, he said.

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