Springfield Council Rejects Opening of Addiction Treatment Resource as Church & Neighbourhood Objects
SPRINGFIELD — On Monday, the City Council rejected a planned addiction treatment facility in an East Springfield industrial park, citing objections from an adjacent church and the neighborhood council.
The Recovery Connection Centers of America, Inc. is requesting a special permit for the proposed medical offices at 268 Cottage Street, which are close to and would share a parking lot with Cottage Hill Church.
In recent weeks, the Recovery Connection Centers provided the evidence of many attorneys, a zoning expert, and medical specialists over the course of multiple hours and nights.
However, council members questioned the effect the treatment facility would have on the church and its activities, as well as the common parking lot. In addition to other concerns, they questioned if the medical offices were a good match for an industrial park.
The vote against the permission was 13-0.
Malo Brown, who identifies himself as a religious person and theologian, stated that he had spoken with churchgoers in the town, “and they don’t feel the love and the necessity for you to be welcomed there.”
“Can you tell me what the Ten Commandments are?” Brown asked, and the query appeared to be addressed to a corporation attorney, Susan Leach DeBlasio of Providence, Rhode Island, answered: There was no answer.
After asking DeBlasio to name the churches close to three additional firm locations in Massachusetts and Rhode Island, he posed this question.
“There is a difference between different religions, different theologies, different acceptances, different cultures,” Brown said. “And for you to have to look it up (names of adjacent churches), it scares me.”
In addition to the church, Councilman Michael Fenton stated that there was significant opposition from neighbors, the East Springfield Neighborhood Council, a local business, and a charter school.
Without a fence or barrier, Fenton was concerned about the presence of patients and parishioners in a common parking lot. In addition, he and Councilor Timothy Allen expressed worry that the corporation had not informed the police, fire, and health departments prior to the council decision, as Fenton had requested the night before.
DeBlasio and other industry representatives stated that the city of Springfield has an urgent need for more medical treatment and counseling services for those with opioid addiction.
The company stated that the practice will be comprised of a manager, a physician, and a counselor.
In addition, the corporation proposed limiting practice hours to Monday through Friday from noon to 7 p.m. and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to noon.
In addition, the firm proposed that the council assess its operations in one year to see if there were any issues.
Fenton stated that the council has the authority to evaluate any special permission at any time and revoke it if considered necessary.
Jeffrey Chandler, a member of the pastoral staff of Cottage Hill Church, stated that the church was concerned that the business’s information, particularly its hours, continued to change over time. He stated that the 7 p.m. closing time may coincide with church events three times each week.
The corporation stated that it made numerous unsuccessful attempts to discuss project issues with the church and other opponents.
Orlando Ramos, the Ward 8 councilor, whose district contains the Cottage Street property, stated that in over a decade of attending or observing council sessions, he has never witnessed an application for a permit given so much time to present its case. The council “gave more than enough time” to the corporation and also heard from the community, providing sufficient information to make an educated choice. Due to the coronavirus, all council meetings have been conducted by teleconference.
Despite voting against the permit, Tracye Whitfield expressed “some ambivalence” in her thoughts due to the demand for services.
She stated that there are unquestionably several ill individuals who require treatment for opioid addiction.
The Tinkham Management Company, which owns five properties on Industry Avenue, including state agency offices, was among the opponents.
According to the firm, those recuperating from substance misuse are handicapped individuals who are protected from discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
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