LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Attorney General APPROVES Wilmington’s Ban On Detox & Medical Facilities In Residential & Business Zones

Dear Editor,

I would like to announce that on June 19, 2018, the Attorney General approved the Article 2 zoning from the special town meeting held on December 16, 2017. On behalf the hardworking people in the Concerned Citizens Group, we thank the Attorney General, Maura Healey, for her favorable decision. The passage of Article 2 addressed the rezoning of all medical facilities and drug detox facilities to take them from all residential zones, business zones and locate them in commercial and highway districts. This will allow for larger facilities that offer a wider spectrum of services. Under the old Wilmington bylaw, drug detox centers and medical facilities could open up in any neighborhood in town, next to any school, and in any business zone with the exception of general industrial zones and highway districts.

The original article, Article one was to change the zoning for only drug detox centers. In itself, that could have been considered as discriminatory. As the lead petitioner getting signatures, professionals in the health field stated to me that drug detox alone is ineffective and people recovering from addiction need treatment medically and psychologically. The professionals gave an example scenario: a recovering addict could possibly go into cardiac arrest during the detoxification process. It would be far safer to have emergency treatment right there in the facility rather than needing to summons an ambulance and waste precious time waiting. The professionals spoke, I listened, and I created a new article that would be inclusive to all who need help. To put all the needs and wants under one roof made far more sense. At the beginning of the special town meeting, we withdrew Article one without prejudice and went with Article Two.

The Concerned Citizens and myself obtained 1,574 signatures in order to bring Article Two to a special town meeting. At that special town meeting held less than one week before Christmas, the vote was 368 in favor, 62 were opposed to the article resulting in an 85% majority win. Article two passed overwhelmingly.

During the meeting, it was stated many times by the Concerned Citizens and myself that we understood the nationwide opioid epidemic and we want to see people get the help they need. The bone of contention was over one word: location. We didn’t want these facilities within neighborhoods or abutting hundreds of homes in residential areas.

After this nearly ten month battle, the Concerned Citizens made the change to protect all neighborhoods in this community, however, Mr. Kneeland, who still owns 362 Middlesex Avenue, went to the planning board prior to the special town meeting with a preliminary subdivision plan that was accepted by the town clerk, Sharon George, locking in the zone for eight years. Technically, he could still build a detox facility at 362 Middlesex Avenue subject to a special permit from the Zoning Board of Appeals. The fight is not over for the residents who live in that neighborhood and the Concerned Citizens. They helped protect your neighborhood by getting this zoning change implemented, now they need your help. Please attend the August 8, 2017 Zoning Board of Appeals meeting at the town hall and help the residents defeat the special permit.

Wilmington Families First, Wilmington Neighborhoods Forever!

Wilmington Selectman Michael V. McCoy

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