- Police Beat
- The Forecaster
FALMOUTH — Neighbors near a new sober house on Webber Way feel the town is providing insufficient oversight and has not done enough to inform them about how the home is being used.
But Town Manager Nathan Poore this week said the town must be “careful to comply with the federal Fair Housing Act, which identifies persons recovering from alcoholism and drug addiction as having a handicap (that) protects them from housing discrimination.”
Poore confirmed that Freedom House of Maine is using the property to house and treat people in recovery, and that the home is owned by Portland-based developer Joseph Soley.
Poore said he understands the concerns raised by neighbors, both through emails and phone calls to town staff, but also said “people in recovery need to reside somewhere.”
“The Fair Housing Act requires the town to make reasonable accommodations to allow anyone with a handicap equal opportunity to use and enjoy a residential dwelling,” Poore said.
Ben Skillings, one of the managing partners at Freedom House, declined to comment for this story.
Peter Rodway, whose Route 1 home backs up to Webber Way, said neighbors first found out about the project three months ago.
While he said he understands “there may be a need for sober houses where people recover, what I don’t understand is how, without any notice to the neighborhood, 12 convicts can move into a densely populated residential neighborhood with no oversight by the town.”
The existence of the sober house, Rodway added, “has drastically changed the character of the neighborhood.”
Due to confidentiality requirements, there is no way to confirm the identities of those living at the sober house or whether they have been incarcerated.
Rodway also said parts of the home that were not up to code were being occupied or used by the residents in violation of town ordinances.
Since notice was given March 6, Poore said the town and Freedom House have reached agreement on the outstanding issues. He also said that under town rules up to six people may reside together in the single-family dwelling and up to six more may live in an attached accessory dwelling.
Other neighbors questioned the efficacy of sober houses in helping people recover from substance use disorder and also questioned whether that area of Falmouth, just north of the Martin’s Point Bridge near Mackworth Island, is the right spot for such a home.
Rodway said the neighbors have held one meeting about the sober house, but “no real plan of action was developed, except that we should all keep our eyes and ears open for any signs of trouble or misbehavior by the residents.”
He also suggested that while the town might be limited in its oversight of sober houses, Falmouth could change its definition of family, which now allows up to six unrelated people to live together.
But Poore said the town’s current focus is on increasing public understanding and developing strategies for addressing the opioid epidemic.
For example, he said, Falmouth is working on a pilot program with the Greater Portland Council of Governments to create an action plan that would rely on “evidence-based policies and practices” to address substance use in the community.
Neighbors say the use of this home at 6 Webber Way in Falmouth as a sober house has altered the character of the neighborhood. The town says its hands are tied by the federal Fair Housing Act.