In response to Mr. McCoy’s recent letter, the residents of Wilmington should be clear about a few different issues.
First and foremost, like many folks who advocate for the development of a detoxification facility in Wilmington, or anywhere for that matter, my position is fueled by having witnessed good and decent people, including family members, friends and colleagues, battle various addictions. As many of us have experienced, there are few things in this world that are as painful to endure, and even fewer things more difficult to overcome, than the unmerciful grip that addiction can have on our loved ones.
After being presented with a conceptual proposal several months ago, and subsequently educating myself about the many facets of this industry, I joined a small group of professionals who began the process of identifying a viable property zoned for such a purpose, securing an experienced operator for such a facility and assembling a team to move our cause forward. I was delighted when Mike Caira agreed to assist us in introducing our conceptual plans to the Wilmington community, under the condition that we would do so in a deliberative, public and transparent way. After discussing our plans with Mr. Caira and Town officials, we offered to present our proposal to the entire community at a meeting of the Board of Selectmen, in order to introduce the team, present our conceptual plans and elicit public input. This voluntary effort on the part of our development group goes well beyond that which is required of us in terms of legal requirements, and it far exceeds the bar that is set by other developers. Simply put, nobody does that.
In an unprecedented effort to elicit public input, even before we filed for any permits whatsoever, we presented our conceptual plans to the Board in September, and we took note of various concerns that were expressed by members of the Board and audience. Though we did not necessarily agree with many of the points that were made at the meeting, we nevertheless acknowledged the concerns that town officials and residents had, and we told the Board and the general public that we would endeavor to address the issues that were raised, and specifically we were prepared to try to find alternative sites that might garner additional support and consensus among town officials and residents alike. That search is not a process that happens quickly, and certainly not as quickly as one can call a special town meeting. Unfortunately, the decision to call a special town meeting to change the zoning by-law has greatly diminished our options, and it has put our group’s collective backs against the wall.
As we prepared for our informational meeting in September, we never imagined that offering to have a candid and public conversation about our plans, which were significantly more flexible then than they are now, that a Selectman would attempt to penalize our proactive and candid approach. Faced with the prospect of losing a viable site, and being left with the very real possibility of having no other options should the re-zoning article pass at Special Town Meeting, we are resigned to proceeding at the one site that is available to us, and we are resolved to proceed as we are lawfully entitled to do. The simple fact is that our development group, the residents and the Town are in exactly the same position today as we would have been in September, had we simply filed a site plan and an application for special permit, like every other developer would have done, without first taking the uniquely proactive and transparent step of meeting with the Selectmen beforehand.
For the record, given the course of events since our meeting in September, and the likely course this project will travel given the prospect of a special town meeting, Mike Caira has stepped back and, regrettably for me, is no longer involved in the project. I have been very clear about this with Town officials, and I am surprised that Mr. McCoy has not been advised of that fact. While Mr. Caira’s prudent and thoughtful advice will be missed, we are well prepared to proceed with our mission without him, and despite Mr. McCoy’s ill-conceived and counterproductive efforts to block the project, we remain ready and willing to resume discussions about how this development might garner the support of those who might currently oppose it.
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