December 17, 2012

Cluster of recovery homes raises concerns in Portland neighborhood

The city says Foundation House's four facilities for recovering addicts meet zoning rules, but neighbors fear further expansion.

By Randy Billings rbillings@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

click image to enlarge

This building at 42 Mellen Street is one of four buildings in Portland's Parkside neighborhood that have been bought by Foundation House, which plans to use them for residential substance abuse recovery programs. Photographed on Friday, December 14, 2012.

Gregory Rec / Staff Photographer

click image to enlarge

This building at 40 Deering Street is one of four buildings in Portland's Parkside neighborhood that have been bought by Foundation House, which plans to use them for residential substance abuse recovery programs. Photographed on Friday, December 14, 2012.

Gregory Rec / Staff Photographer

Additional Photos Below

Serenity House, on Mellen Street, is an alcohol recovery program.

Giovannini said he is concerned because Foundation House presents itself to city officials as a bunch of men living together, but advertises online as an upscale extended-care treatment center.

In their appeal, the residents claim that clients pay about $3,000 a month to stay at Foundation House. Babcock would not disclose rent terms.

"We find it inconceivable that rents do not reflect the level of treatment program support described on their website, whether delivered on-site or off," the residents said in their appeal.

Parkside residents sought help from Anne Pringle, a former mayor and city councilor who represented Parkside and the West End when the issue of sheltered-care facilities was last studied, in the 1990s.

At the time, the real estate market was down and "special-criteria housing" started popping up in Parkside, Pringle said.

"What I distilled it down to was, their concern was clustering in one neighborhood," she said. "What appears to be occurring again is the same thing here almost 20 years later."

Pringle said the city should create a map of special-criteria homes to get a clear understanding of which neighbors are most affected.

The issue also caught the attention of Penny Stevens, who lives on Vaughn Street in the West End.

"I think it could spread," Stevens said. "There are a lot of houses up here (that Babcock) would find attractive."

Acting City Attorney Danielle West-Chuhta said Portland's ability to prevent clustering of such homes is limited by state, federal and case law, since Foundation House treats people who are legally identified as handicapped.

West-Chuhta said the city tried to limit the location of a halfway house in the 1990s but the effort was deemed unconstitutional in Maine Superior Court.

City Councilor David Marshall, who represents Parkside and the West End, said the foundation provides a much-needed service but residents have raised legitimate concerns. He plans to ask the council to look at the way the city code addresses such facilities.

The city could require special approval for lodging houses, which would give residents a chance to learn about the facilities at public forums before they are established in a neighborhood.

"I think it's important for the public to understand who their neighbors are in a way that's represented accurately," Marshall said. "You look at this program -- and it's a great program -- but the way it's fitting into city code doesn't recognize it as the program it is."

 

Staff Writer Randy Billings can be contacted at 791-6346 or at:

rbillings@mainetoday.com

Twitter: @randybillings

 

Were you interviewed for this story? If so, please fill out our accuracy form

Send question/comment to the editors


Additional Photos

click image to enlarge

This building at 38 Deering Street is one of four buildings in Portland's Parkside neighborhood that have been bought by Foundation House, which plans to use them for residential substance abuse recovery programs. Photographed on Friday, December 14, 2012.

Gregory Rec / Staff Photographer

click image to enlarge

This building at 235 State Street is one of four buildings in Portland's Parkside neighborhood that have been bought by Foundation House, which plans to use them for residential substance abuse recovery programs. Photographed on Friday, December 14, 2012.

Gregory Rec / Staff Photographer

 


Further Discussion

Here at PressHerald.com we value our readers and are committed to growing our community by encouraging you to add to the discussion. To ensure conscientious dialogue we have implemented a strict no-bullying policy. To participate, you must follow our Terms of Use.

Questions about the article? Add them below and we’ll try to answer them or do a follow-up post as soon as we can. Technical problems? Email them to us with an exact description of the problem. Make sure to include:
  • Type of computer or mobile device your are using
  • Exact operating system and browser you are viewing the site on (TIP: You can easily determine your operating system here.)