The proposal to site a detoxification facility in North Wilmington has garnered much attention and anguish, as it should for anyone with concerns about maintaining the character of residential neighborhoods, and most importantly, giving careful thought to where such a facility would best be located in our town.
As a former chairman of the Planning Board, and co-chair of the (2001) Town Master Plan Committee, I can attest that a huge amount of effort was put into developing the town’s Master Plan. The development of the Plan encompassed extensive public meetings, a large and diverse Master Plan Committee, and integration of a wide array of important goals. The clear message from the people was that the Plan needed to promote the town’s family-oriented sense of community, and protect and preserve the town’s many assets.
A core element of the Plan was promoting five Neighborhood Activity Centers, and the Plan specifically included this goal for the area in North Wilmington at and near Middlesex Avenue and the MBTA train station. The intention was and is to promote “attractive, mixed-use, pedestrian-friendly environments.” The recommendation for this area:
“As with the Town Center, appropriate uses in North Wilmington include retail, offices, and housing, including townhouses and condominiums. Design guidelines should require small setbacks, parking in the rear or on the side, and pedestrian amenities such as sidewalks. Redevelopment of the industrial area for office uses or incubator space should be encouraged, and zoning should be modified to permit such redevelopment.”
It is easy to see how this area was targeted for these uses, as it already has the transit station, and many locally owned businesses which are frequented by the town’s residents. “Incubator space” is a planning term intended to promote emergence of smaller unit, locally-owned businesses. The clear goal is to establish an area where residents and others could go to get a haircut, have a bagel, go to the bank, connect to public transit, all in an area conveniently and safely connected by attractive walkways and streetscaping.
The parcel at 362 Middlesex Avenue constitutes a prime location for further achieving the goal of making this area a true neighborhood activity center. Siting of a detoxification facility at this location runs completely against the recommendations in the Master Plan, and the will of the neighborhood who will be most affected. The Zoning Board should vote to deny any Special Permit for this use.
Proponents of the proposed detox facility highlight the need for more treatment facilities, which is indisputable. The need for addiction treatment centers is one all of us must collectively work toward addressing. I have not met anyone that feels otherwise. Selectman McCoy has advanced articles to create opportunities to site detoxification facilities in other areas of the town, to areas more suited for this use. This is a sound approach. Moreover, through these zoning changes, sites may emerge with superior infrastructure, such as larger lots, improved buffering, and access to the municipal sewer system, which may allow for better and more efficient design of the detox facility.
It’s not about prohibiting a detox center. It’s about siting it in the right location.
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