LowellÕs methadone clinic could move to this building in Lowell, near Drum Hill
LowellÕs methadone clinic could move to this building in Lowell, near Drum Hill

LOWELL -- The proposal of the city's lone methadone clinic to move to a new site on the Lowell/Chelmsford line will be back before the city's Zoning Board of Appeals tonight.

The public hearing on Habit OpCo's plan to relocate to 22 Olde Canal Drive will start at 6:30 p.m., in the City Council Chambers.

The board voted last year 4-1 to reject the clinic's request for a special permit so it could move from its current location in the Wannalancit Mills complex to the new site.

Habit OpCo, the clinic operator, responded by suing the city and the ZBA in state Land Court and federal court, seeking to overturn the decision.

The new hearing is a result of a legal settlement in which the city agreed to void the previous decision of the ZBA and hold a new public hearing.

Four votes are needed for special-permit approval, which the clinic needs to locate in a light-industrial zone.

The ZBA raised concerns about pedestrian safety and transportation to the proposed new site when it rejected the relocation last summer in a series of meetings that drew standing-room-only crowds to City Hall.

Two of the ZBA members who voted against the relocation -- Corey Belanger and Kevin Ahern -- have since resigned.

Van Pech, the sole vote to allow the clinic to relocate, was an alternate at the time and has since become a permanent member.

The City Council will vote Tuesday night on whether to confirm making current alternate Melissa Carino a permanent member as proposed by the city manager.


Attorney George Eliades will again represent the clinic before the ZBA.

"I intend to go to present the case again and some new conditions we will put forth to make sure the safety concerns of the city are met," Eliades said. "We are quite anxious and hopeful this matter gets resolved for the benefit of the community."

The clinic originally sought a new site because its lease in the Wannalancit Mills complex was set to expire at the end of last September.

The lease has been extended until March, according to a Jan. 7 letter a state Department of Public Health official wrote to ZBA Chairman William Bailey and that was copied to other ZBA members and City Manager Bernie Lynch.

In the letter, the DPH said it is concerned about the possibility of "800 patients facing the abrupt cessation of life saving treatment."

Hilary Jacobs, the director of DPH's Bureau of Substance Abuse Services, said the department's concerns have only grown since it first relayed its concerns to Lynch in August.

"The situation is extremely concerning to the Department as the well-being of 800 patients is at risk due to this inaction," Jacobs wrote. "The Department urges the city to find a resolution that allows for the uninterrupted treatment of these patients, many of whom are Lowell residents."

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