An architect’s rendering of the planned substance use recovery center to be built and operated by York County. Courtesy York County

Delays in the local approval process for a new 58-bed substance use recovery center in Alfred could push back the construction timeline and drive up costs, according to a York County official.

The Alfred Planning Board last month denied the land use application for the recovery center, then rescinded that vote and tabled the matter. The county asserts its application is complete and the town is now in violation of its own requirement to find an application incomplete within 35 days, said York County Manager Gregory Zinser.

“We think there is resistance to treatment here in Alfred,” Zinser said. “I believe it centers around stigma.”

The Planning Board will meet Monday with the town attorney in executive session to discuss the board’s rights and duties for the pending application, then review it for completeness.

The treatment and recovery center – which government and law enforcement officials say is desperately needed in the county – is part of a $45 million project that also includes a first responder training facility and a 30-unit apartment building in Sanford. The recovery center and training facility would be built on county-owned property on Route 4 near the county jail in Alfred.

The county in August submitted two applications to the Planning Board – one for the recovery center and one for the training facility. The board voted unanimously on Sept. 18 to find the training facility application complete, but the same night tabled the recovery center application.


For a month, the county didn’t know where the application stood with the board because it had not been put on another meeting agenda in October, Zinser said.

Zinser sent the Planning Board a letter Tuesday requesting it consider the application complete because the board did not find it was incomplete within the required 35-day period. He also asked the board to move forward with the final determination on the application at a public hearing.

Zinser told the board the county wants to get the recovery center running “as soon as possible so that it can provide a significant and much needed health care benefit to the citizens of York County.”

Later that day, Zinser said, he was notified that the Planning Board will discuss the application Monday.

Planning Board Chair Andy Bors said Wednesday that the town is not able to discuss pending applications.

As proposed, the 58 beds at the recovery center would be divided into 42 residential and outpatient treatment beds for stays of varying lengths, eight detox beds, plus eight observation beds intended for people who need help in the middle of the night and would be assessed the next morning.


There are currently no detox beds available in York County, a critical gap in services in a county where 103 people died of a drug overdose last year, according to county and law enforcement officials.

The size of the facility and the number of treatment beds is where things get tricky.

The Layman Way Recovery Center, which opened in 2018 next to where the new facility would be built, is licensed to have 36 treatment beds.

Since it was was built, however, the the town changed its land use code to say that a substance use inpatient center can only have 30 beds.

Because the new facility is intended to replace it, the county argues those 36 beds are grandfathered and can be transferred – therefore it only needs the OK for 14 more.

Plans for the project have been underway for more than a year. The county received $40 million from the American Rescue Plan Act – an amount that is nearly double the county’s annual budget.


After months of discussion and public hearings, county commissioners approved spending a combined $30 million for the recovery center and training facility, along with $4.6 million in opioid settlement funds for the recovery center.

The county also gave $500,000 in ARPA funds to the Sanford Housing Authority to develop a “housing first” apartment building for people in recovery or who are still actively using. The housing first approach focuses on getting people into permanent housing, then providing support services to address issues like substance use. The housing authority will also convert some of its existing housing into recovery housing.

However, the county is $7 million short on funding for the recovery center and training facility. In late September, the county sent a letter to the Maine Recovery Council asking for help covering that gap.

Zinser said Wednesday that he has not heard back from the council about that request.

The county would like to break ground on the project by late spring 2024 and anticipates construction will take 18 to 24 months.

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