Freeport council weighs limits on methadone clinics

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FREEPORT — The Town Council is expected to schedule an Oct. 4 public hearing to discuss how to regulate methadone clinics.

Councilors discussed the issue in a short workshop before their regular meeting Tuesday, Sept. 6, where they placed a Town Charter amendment question on the Nov. 8 ballot.

Councilors sent the clinic question to the Planning Board after Councilor Jim Hendricks asked for information on how the town would handle a request to establish a medical marijuana dispensary. Town officials said there was not a specific request that drove the issue.

The council in February asked the Planning Board to discuss zoning requirements for providers of medical marijuana and whether there should be limits on where dispensaries, growing facilities and opiate addiction treatment facilities can be located.

Councilors on Tuesday met with Town Planner Donna Larson and Planning Board Chairwoman Wendy Caisse to discuss the Planning Board’s recommendation regarding methadone clinics.

Larson, Caisse, and other councilors emphasized the work is preemptive.

The Planning Board is recommending the council adopt a definition for “Medication Assisted Treatment Facility for Opioid Addiction,” which is “a fully licensed facility used to dispense FDA approved medications for the purpose of treating opioid dependence.”

Under the current zoning ordinance, a methadone clinic is considered a “business and professional office” and would be permitted in a variety of commercial, medium-density, village mixed use, local business, and village commercial zones.

The board also recommends that the council allow the facilities to be a permitted use in only the Commercial 4 district, which is between Hunter and Desert roads. A zoning map can be found on the town’s website.

Larson and Caisse said the Planning Board recommended the Commercial 4 district because it is less public than other commercial zones. They said going to an opioid treatment facility carries a stigma.

Larson and Caisse said people in attendance at a June 29 public hearing said the district is too small and would create too much traffic, but the the Planning Board disagreed.

Placing limits on the location of facilities now stops people from being able to build them in other areas of town. Councilors also noted that the prospect of anyone wanting to build a methadone clinic in Freeport is very low.

Charter amendment

The charter amendment, which would regulate petitions, was on the June 14 ballot, but didn’t pass because not enough votes were cast. Residents voted 1,091 to 168 in favor of the amendment, but 1,413 votes were needed for the amendment to be approved.

“The law states that no charter amendment may become effective unless the total votes cast for and against the question equal or exceed 30 percent of the total votes cast for the office of governor in the municipality at the most recent gubernatorial election,” Town Clerk Christine Wolfe said in June. 

According to Wolfe, 1,314 people voted in June, which is 20 percent of the town’s registered voters.

Under the amendment, residents would no longer have to go to Town Hall to sign petitions and petitions could be circulated around town. Under the existing rules, petitions have to be signed at Town Hall in the presence of the clerk.

Councilors on Tuesday said they expect a larger voter turnout in November because of the general election.

Kate Gardner can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or kgardner@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter: @katevgardner.

Freeport Town Hall

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I'm a reporter for The Forecaster covering Freeport, Yarmouth, Chebeague Island, and Cape Elizabeth. I'm from a small town in NH no one's ever heard of. When not reporting, I can be found eating pasta and reading books, often at the same time.