Pubdate: Fri, 06 Aug 2004
Source: Valley News, The (White River Junction, VT)
Copyright: 2004 The Valley News
Author: Sonia Scherr
Bookmark: (Methadone)


Lebanon -- Habit Management plans to open its West Lebanon methadone clinic
next month, despite another challenge from three neighbors trying to stop it
from locating off Route 12A.

The clinic is expected to open in mid-to late September, said Richard Keefe,
Habit Management's vice president and in-house lawyer.

The Massachusetts-based company has begun advertising for employees and
interviewing candidates, he said. The clinic will have up to seven staff
members: a program director, two nurses, a counselor, a counseling director
and two office and support staff.

It initially expects to have 30 patients, with the number increasing to
around 70 after a year. The clinic would distribute liquid methadone to
treat heroin addiction and provide extensive counseling to patients.

Habit Management has finished renovating its Interchange Drive building --
which used to house the Phone Mart -- and has been licensed by the state of
New Hampshire, Keefe said. Officials expect to receive approval within the
next week or two from the federal Drug Enforcement Administration, which
regulates the areas where methadone is stored.

The company also has applied to the city of Lebanon for a certificate of
occupancy for its facility. Carmela Hennessy, Lebanon's director of codes
enforcement, said she is verifying the company's state license before
granting the certificate.

The center will be open from about 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. during the week and from
6 a.m. to 9:30 or 10 a.m. on weekends, Keefe said. (The hours are longer
during the week to allow time for counseling.) Patients will come to the
clinic by appointment to receive methadone under close supervision.

But Habit Management faces a new challenge from three neighboring businesses
- -- Brown Furniture, Beverage King and New England School of Hair Design --
that plan a court appeal of the city's decision to grant Habit Management a
zoning permit, said Peter Decato, a Lebanon lawyer representing the three

The neighbors filed a request Wednesday -- the final day of a 30-day appeal
period -- for a rehearing before the Lebanon Zoning Board of Adjustment,
which last month upheld Hennessy's decision to grant Habit Management a
zoning permit.

State law requires the neighbors to request the rehearing before they can go
to court.

The zoning board will decide at its Aug. 16 meeting whether to reconsider
its decision, Hennessy said. If it denies the request, then the neighbors
would be free to go to Grafton County Superior Court. The city wouldn't
prevent Habit Management from opening during the appeal process since a
decision has already been made, Hennessy said.

As they did during their first appearance before the zoning board, the
neighbors are contending that a methadone clinic is not an "office" as
defined in the Lebanon zoning ordinance and doesn't belong in a district
zoned for general commercial uses, according to documents filed at City

"We think it's a clinic," said Gary Trottier, owner of New England School of
Hair Design. "It has a very unique medical function and clearly isn't an

The neighbors also are arguing that the clinic cannot locate near New
England School of Hair Design in a drug-free school zone, because it would
attract drug users to the zone. "A methadone clinic clearly shouldn't be
operating in a drug-free school zone," Trottier said. "That's pretty clear
to us."

Barry Schuster, the Lebanon lawyer representing Habit Management, has said
that similar social service agencies have offices in West Lebanon, including
Care Net Pregnancy Center and a Planned Parenthood Health Clinic. He's also
said that a drug-free school zone doesn't apply to legal drugs.

Schuster said this week that the neighbors have the right to appeal.

Nonetheless, he said, "We are very confident that the law permits the
office, and we're disappointed that the neighbors feel this is necessary,
but we look forward to working with them so all their concerns are
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